Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Surprise Message


On Sunday morning, we will read from 2 Samuel 7 and will hear King David ask the prophet Nathan whether it is time to build a house for the Lord: "See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent." Nathan understood what David is hinting at, and he confirmed for the king that his plan was a good one: "Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you." But, that night, the Lord appeared to Nathan and told him to reverse course: "Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in?"

It made perfect sense that David would build a temple for Yahweh. God had given David and the people of Israel security and prosperity. The place of worship, the place where Yahweh dwelt, however, was still in a tent. I don't know about you, but I like living in a tent for one night. I've never been on one of those fancy safaris, on which "tent" means "palace with canvas walls," so I might change my mind and stay for three nights in one of those, but I like living in a house with real, solid walls. And, if King David is going to live in a palace with cedar paneling, it makes sense that God would live in a similar abode.

But God isn't ready to move into a house yet. Instead, God uses this gesture by the king to double down on his investment in David: "I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth...Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever." This promise of a "house" doesn't mean a palace in which the king will live but a house--a dynasty--that will persist forever. God tells Nathan to tell David that his lineage will rule on the throne forever.

Of course, it doesn't. Solomon screws up, marries lots of foreign woman, and, in his old age, begins to worship foreign gods. As a result, God rips the kingdom from him and gives ten twelfths of it (all but the tribes of Benjamin and Judah) to another king. The monarchy is divided. Eventually, both kingdoms will fall. The throne of David is defeated. There is no heir to serve as king.

But God isn't in the business of breaking promises. Part of what the angel Gabriel announces to Mary in Luke 1 is the restoration of David's line through her son, Jesus: "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." It may have been dormant for a while, but the promise made to David is resurrected in the birth of Joseph's son, Jesus.

There's an Easter story here. Death always precedes resurrection. God's promises are always sure. As God's never-failing faithfulness overcomes the failure of David's heirs, we remember that with God nothing is lost. With God, there is always hope.

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