This is a two-part series adapted from a recent sermon based on 2 Samuel 7:1-17. You can find Part 1 here.
Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. – Psalm 127:1 (NIV)
Last week, we were looking at the story of David’s desire to build a house for God to live in. When we remember this story, we often go from the king’s offer to God’s promise of a dynasty for David’s line.
But God had a lot more to say than that.
And God didn’t waste any time but spoke to Nathan – the prophet – that very night about what the king wanted to do. And what does the Lord sayeth?
Go to my servant David and tell him this:
- I brought Israel out of Egypt.
- I chose to travel in a tent (did I say I needed a cedar temple?).
- I chose leaders to shepherd my people.
- I am the one who took you from following the flock to be the shepherd of my people.
- I’m the one that has always been with you.
- I’ve eliminated your enemies.
- I will make your name great.
- I will provide a place for my people.
- I will plant them so they can live.
- I will protect them.
- I will give you rest from your enemies.
- I will make you into a dynasty.
- I will raise up your descendant – to succeed you when you die.
- I will establish his throne – and he will build a temple for my name.
- I will be his father – and I will discipline him when he does wrong.
- But I will never take my faithful love from him…and I will do this forever.
Who is the King here? God says, “I AM.” Even the kings of this world are merely servants of the LORD of heavenly forces. David wanted to build a house for God, but it wasn’t the house that God wanted him to build.
So what about us?
We all build houses for God. Like David, like the thousands that built the beautiful churches I visited this summer, like the people who built the church you worship in, we desire to do something wonderful for God. For the most part, we act with good intentions. But these houses we build for God are often based on our desires and our blueprints.
- Some houses we build to validate our importance…When the KING was settled in his palace.
- Some houses we build to maintain safety and security…the LORD had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies.
- Some houses we build out of guilt or a sense of obligation…I’m living in a cedar palace.
But these aren’t the houses God was calling David to build – and God isn’t calling us to build these houses either. God was calling David to build a house that found a home in the LORD, the I AM: in the Lord of the heavenly forces who rescued David from those who wanted to kill him; in the God who took him from being a follower of sheep to a leader of God’s people Israel; in the One who has the power to make and keep promises that last in the eternity past our own life.
David, the shepherd turned king, wanted to build a place where God would dwell. But God reminds David of what David knew long ago in the fields outside Bethlehem:
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. – Psalm 23 (NRSV)
God didn’t want David to built him a house made of cedar but for David to find his home in the One who called him to lead God’s most precious possession: God’s people.
You may wonder what this means in your life, so I’ll share some of the houses I build in my life. As I’ve reflected on this Scripture over this summer, I find there are many houses that I build for God. And unfortunately, I rarely consult God on whether these are the houses I should be building.
My house: to be thinner, always wanting to weigh less and look better → God’s house: good health
My house: no depression and everything that goes with it → God’s house: trust and dependence on God when things are difficult
Other houses we build are financial security (rather than a house of generosity); perfect kids (rather than godly kids); a house of blessing (but we are called to be a blessing).
We offer to build God a house based on what we think God needs. But God doesn’t need us to build God a house. God tells us, “I never asked for it.”
But God does want you.
Jesus calls us to abide in him, bearing the good fruit of the vine. God has provided green pastures and still waters; a promise of presence and provision. Forever. So the question we are left with is will we build our own house for God or dwell in the house God has built for us?
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” – Matthew 7:24-27 (NRSV)