4th Sunday in Advent
December 21, 2014
2 Samuel 7:8-16
Our Real Home
Several weeks ago I went to my parent’s house. I wasn’t necessarily given the orders to clean out my old room, but I’d like to think that it was implied. After all, I guess I’m not using some of the things in my desk like calculators and pens that had their ink dried up years ago. And of course, I got rather nostalgic as I came across old notebooks and as I found some old pictures and newspaper clippings. You probably know that when you have to clean out something like that, it takes twice as long to clean. But, I looked, I smiled, and I threw a lot of it out. I didn’t really feel like keeping a participation ribbon from an event I don’t think they even gave ribbons out at. As we get older, we move on. We hopefully move out from that home. We own our own houses. And in the blink of an eye, the idea of a home means that we go to a retirement community or a nursing home. Although we stay in our houses for years on end, we are really nomads in life. Jumping from one home to another.
King David could understand that kind of living very well. In fact, all of the Israelites could relate. In the chapters before our text we hear of David’s rise to power. David was anointed king over Israel and captured the city of Jerusalem from the people called the Jebusites. Israel finally had a home. They could actually build homes instead of living in tents, and that is exactly what David did. He built a beautiful palace for himself. A new home in a new city.
As David walked around his new palace, he didn’t feel right that he should be living in such a wonderful and glorious palace, while the ark of the covenant was still kept in a tent. Can you imagine having to carry the ark everywhere? Here’s a bit of Biblical Jeopardy knowledge. But maybe you remember Uzzah who touched the ark and died because he was just trying to save the ark from falling and keep it upright! I'm sure people would be glad to have a final resting place for the ark!
But David doesn’t get the answer that he was hoping for. The prophet Nathan relays the message from the Lord that David wasn’t meant to build the resting place for the ark of the covenant. There was nothing selfish about David’s initial thought. He was not out to make a name for himself. He only wanted to give glory to God. But God had other plans. God calls himself Yahweh here, the God of free and faithful grace and at the same time the God of all the heavenly hosts, the God who is in control and in charge! He demonstrated that faithful grace by reminding David of his past, where he came from. Here God was sitting down with David and looking at old pictures. It's nice to go back to old pictures and see how far you’ve come. The ups and downs of your life. The embarrassing moments. The glorious triumphs. You see how God brought you here, to this very moment, sitting in this church, listening to this message. The fact is that God is with us, even when it seemed like he wasn’t with us.
But God’s answer was still no. It would not be David’s role to build a temple. God had other plans for David to do in the city of Jerusalem. Its like moving into your new home. It takes time to get to know the neighbors and their quirks. Up to this point, the nation of Israel had gone through a lot of unrest. Ever since they even entered the promised land of Canaan, they were constantly battling enemies around. God wanted peace in the land surrounding Jerusalem for something special, something that would knock the socks off of King David’s palace or even imagined temple.
God wanted David’s eyes fixed on another home. What God, in effect, promised to do was to set up a double kingdom. An earthly kingdom ruled by David’s family. David’s son, Solomon would be the immediate fulfillment of that promise and he would build the temple that David envisioned. But with that promise was an even greater promise of an everlasting kingdom ruled by one of David’s family members, much greater than king David and king Solomon. Here God essentially repeats the promise that he made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, namely the promise to send the Messiah, the savior. Jesus made it clear when he said about himself: “now one greater than Solomon is here.” (Matthew 12:42). God was directing David’s eyes to his heavenly home. That is where God was pointing, not a temporal home, even for the ark of the covenant.
I can’t believe how calm and collected David seemed to be when hearing that things were not going to go according to plan. I’m sure for David, there were some emotions that were thrown around, to put it nicely. Yet, amazingly, he trusted in God. It blows my mind because I always do the complete opposite of someone like king David. Don't we all? We whine and complain when we don’t get things done our way, like the child who didn’t get that one toy for Christmas. We don’t want to hear the answer “no" from God. We don’t want to be “spiritually disciplined.” We want things done our way. As the theme of the service mentions, we aren’t ready to receive a “no” answer from God.
When we don’t keep our eyes fixed on our eternal home, we look at our temporal home and our temporal problems. When I have temporal problems, I will have temporal solutions or remedies. What can I have, here on this earth, to make me feel better, to make me feel more complete, to ease the pain of a problem? In the medicine cabinet of our temporal home, you will only fine the temporal remedies for those problems. When you open that medicine cabinet, you diagnose your problem and you pull out that favorite pill bottle of yours. A lot of times we have the same problem, so we have the same diagnosis. I’m sick and tired of everything right now. Let me just pull out the bottle labeled “let’s be angry at everyone.” Or my problem today is that I’m lonely. Today, the best remedy seems to be pornography. A simple quick fix. Today my problem is that I was bad mouthed by a friend. I think the remedy for me today will be to bad mouth them. I’ll feel better then! When we have our eyes, minds, and hearts fixed on this temporal home and this temporal life, we will have temporal results that only make things worse. We aren’t great at diagnosing our problem.
If you are sick and tired of everything and God says no to taking away your problems, does God really want your eyes fixed on that temporal remedy of anger? If you are lonely and God says right now you need to be alone, does God want your eyes fixed on things that aren’t yours, which don’t keep the marital bed clean? If we are bad mouthed, does God give us some good words to burn our friend with? Of course not! So what’s the point of these words?
Just recently the Huffington post had an article that tried to use this passage to demonstrate that governments don’t have any sense of accountability, especially in the case of the Ferguson trials, etc.. The writer claimed that the government leaders of ancient Israel were reckless because they could claim divine right. This writer went on to say that the prophets, like Nathan, were called by God only to reveal these social injustices and that God will not forever tolerate unjust systems. While he may not be entirely off, do you really think that is the main point of this conversation? Just a reminder not to take the bible’s words out of context and use them for your own agenda.
God had plans for his ark of the covenant, just as he had plans for David and his family, even if they weren’t what David was hoping for. God’s plans for David directly affected everyone throughout all time. Even though God made that promise thousands of years ago to David, it is still the perfect and wonderful comfort that our home isn’t here. The remedies of this earth pale in comparison to what Christ has done for us. The birth of Christ, as we will see very soon at Christmas, was part of God’s plan to eradicate the guilt of our sin, and the guilt of our temporal and sinful homemade remedies for our problems. It was part of God’s plan to make us one with God. It was part of God’s plan to give us an eternal home, a place where we can kick off our shoes and know that we are welcome. God has given to us something to look forward to when we die. You know how you sometimes need a vacation after a vacation? Time to rest? Imagine the deep breath, the calm, the rest, the happiness knowing that we are home in heaven.
When I go back to my parents’ house and am reminded of the past events in my life, when I see the old pictures on the wall or stuffed into an old photo album, I can see the events unfolded and see how God played a role in each of those moments in my life. We often say hindsight is 20/20. But what about when we are in the moment? When we ask God to help us, or simply give us an answer for a difficult question? We wonder where God is, as if we are knocking on a door. Hello? You there? And when we seem to get the answer, no. It’s a little heartbreaking. Remember that when God responds to our prayers and our requests with a no, either God is saying to you, you aren’t ready for this. Maybe, you aren’t quite spiritually mature for this gift. Or, maybe simply, this gift isn’t for you, because God has a different plan for you. God’s responses are always designed to give us more than we could ever hope for, even if they may appear to initially deprive us of some joy. After all, God knows me better than I know myself and He also knows what’s best for me in the future. Are you ready for that answer no? When I keep my eyes fixed on our real home, our eternal home, when the season of Advent reminds me of what to stay prepared for, then I can understand a little more clearly why God does what he does, or at least I begin to trust him more in my difficult situation. As we come into the Christmas season, don’t lose sight of our real home, the home established for us by God’s very own son, the home of everlasting peace and rest and continue to trust in God, even when his answer is no. Amen.