(We are currently in a series on the life of David at Chelsea Village. As I’ve written before I attempt to write a full manuscript of my sermon before preaching. Throughout this series I’ll be posting some of the sermons I think will be helpful. If you would rather listen to the sermon, you can find it here.)
This past week I had been reading 1776 by David McCullough which tells the story of the events surrounding the American Revolution in 1776; focusing specifically on the siege of Boston and battle of New York. It was interesting to hear the attitude of those first Americans towards the English monarchy and then read our current news to see a Bush and a Clinton running for President. Whether we want to admit it or not, America has always had royal families, whether it be in politics, business, or entertainment. We idolize these families to the point we even become obsessed with their children. How often is one of the top news stories during the day about the child of a celebrity doing something wrong?
We scrutinize the children of celebrities and politicians because we want to see what they will do with the advantage they have been handed. We see them as being people of privilege and having a responsibility to live up to the family name. In a related way, those who follow Jesus should ask ourselves what we do in light of the grace we have been shown. Since we have experienced the overwhelming grace of God through Jesus, what are we going to do with the privilege God gave to us.
Last week we looked at the promises God made to David. He promised him he would make his name great. He promised he would have offspring who would reign forever. David hears this life and history altering promise and begins to pray. In this prayer we see three ways we should respond to God’s grace.
Then King David went in and sat before the LORD and said, “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord GOD. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord GOD! And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord GOD! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it. Therefore you are great, O LORD God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods? And you established for yourself your people Israel to be your people forever. And you, O LORD, became their God. And now, O LORD God, confirm forever the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, and do as you have spoken. And your name will be magnified forever, saying, ‘The LORD of hosts is God over Israel,’ and the house of your servant David will be established before you. For you, O LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. And now, O Lord GOD, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you. For you, O Lord GOD, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.”
2 Samuel 7:18-29
Develop a High View of God
David continually refers to God as “O Lord God.” When he does this he refers back to an important time in Israel’s history and in doing so tells us something about God. In Exodus 3 we have the famous encounter of Moses at the burning bush. Here the Lord speaks to Moses from a bush that is on fire but not consumed. The Lord tells Moses that he is going to go to the Pharaoh and tell him to let his people go. Moses naturally shakes in his shoes and starts trying to find a way out of this assignment. He appeals to his poor speech and at one point asks in whose name he should tell them he has come. Every nation in the Ancient Near East had deities and a person would come in the name of the whatever god governed their nation. What the Lord tells us about himself here sets him apart from any tribal deity and ultimately any competitor who might stand in his way.
David recognizes who he is a debtor to God’s grace because he sees who God is. In fact his prayer is littered with references to God. The thing he says which sticks out the most in this passage is “There is none like you and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.” He sees these promises and what is unfolding and he sees the incomparability of God. In other words he sees the majesty of God in his character and remembers there is no one like him. He has no equal and he has no rivals. There is none like him in character. There is none holy, loving, patient, kind, faithful, merciful, and just at the same time as he is. There is none as wise, powerful, and faithful to his promises as him.
The Bible usually jumps from the incomparability of God to the danger of idolatry. What do you serve, love, and look to that is a substitute for the one true God? In fact we need to recognize all of the little idolatries that can sneak into our lives. Take sports for example. In our culture could we possibly say sports has become a little god who competes with our allegiance to the one true God. My friend David Prince had a great article on The Gospel Coalition about this recently. He offers some questions we should ask ourselves about sports and our commitment to it. Do you enjoy sports as a good gift of God even when your team loses? In other words, do the people around you need to clear out of the room when your team is doing poorly? Or can your team lose and you go back to real life? Does your team losing steal your joy? Second question, do you sever your participation in sports or cheering for your favorite team from your Christian faith? In other words, do you still follow Jesus when you participate or cheer for sports or do you live as if you do not know him when the ball is kicked off? Last question, does your involvement in sports inspire faithfulness in your vocation and endeavors? Do you remain faithful to your work or does sports distract you from your vocation? Are you listening to Finebaum and reading about recruiting when you should be working? Does sports inspire you to follow Jesus or draw you away from him? Does a game ending late on Saturday night mean you aren’t worshipping with God’s people on Sunday morning. Do you talk so much smack that you want to avoid other Christians when your team loses or they want to avoid you when theirs does? We need to think through these things because sports is a good thing, but we can make it into a thing it was never meant to be.
Some of the deepest reflections on God in the Bible come from David’s own mouth and pen. Even before he was king he drank deeply from the great truths of who God is. Then these great truths led him to communion with God. When you get a chance read Psalm 63. Look at how he speaks of his longing to meet with God. Look at what he says he thinks about on the “night watches.” The truths of what we believe about God were real to him. They weren’t simply propositions to be checked off on a box and say, “yes I believe that.” Instead these truths lead to communion with God and to worship. I want to encourage you to do something in the times when you read the Bible. Take one or two verses from what you are reading that strike you particularly and begin to meditate on them. What does it teach you about God? What does it teach you about yourself? Is there a command to obey? Is there a prayer to be prayed? Is there something for which you should be thankful? Is there a promise to remember? Is there a sin of which you should repent? Is there a sin you need the strength to avoid? Is there a challenge to face? Read and think through these things slowly. Then take a phrase a repeat it several times emphasizing each word.
Then let your meditation on the Bible build a bridge into your prayer time. Take these questions you’ve asked in your head and begin praying through them. Thank God for who he is and what he has done. Confess sin and receive pardon. Remember the promises of God and ask for grace to remember them when times are hard. Ask for the strength to face your challenges and obstacles in a way that glorifies him. We need this kind of communion with God. Our souls were made for it. When I think about how my soul was made for God I cannot help but think about “as a deer pants for flowing streams, so my soul pants for you O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”
I struggled with what to cover and not cover this morning. There is so much here that my struggle was knowing what to talk about but knowing what to leave out, but what we always must major on when we come to a passage like this is who God is. Then particularly we want to see who God is toward us in Christ. There is such a tendency in our day to jump into passages of Scripture and see me, but when I do that I miss the main God. I cannot discover who I am apart from knowing him and I if I get myself and miss him I have missed out greatly!
Develop a Humble View of Ourselves
David hears the promise from Nathan and is overwhelmed. Interestingly enough David sits down to pray and the prayer is one word longer than God’s promises to him. David’s prayer begins with humility. He wonders who he is and who is family is that God would visit him in such a way.
This was brought out in an interesting way in God’s promise to David. The first few verses of the chapter refer to David as “the king.” Then when the Lord began to speak it was “my servant David.” David may have been the king, but even then he was the servant of the real King. David recognizes this in himself when he call’s himself the Lord’s servant.
This description becomes important in the way the rest of the Old Testament talks about the future Messiah. Many of Jesus’ contemporaries read only the kingly passages about the Messiah. It’s almost as if they missed the servant passages. In Isaiah he talks about the servant of the Lord culminating in a description of his death. The servant, who Isaiah says will bring justice to the nations, will give himself as a sacrifice for the people. “We all like sheep have gone astray. We have turned- every one, to his own way, but the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
The prophet Ezekiel spoke and wrote while Judah was in exile in Babylon. In chapter 34 he rebuked the leaders of the people, whom God referred to as “the shepherds of my people.” They fleeced the flock instead of looking out for the weak. They did not care for the sick or the dying. They ignored the flock and fattened themselves. God deposed them from leadership and said he would install his shepherd, “my servant David.” Then he says “my servant David” will be prince over his people. This is the same kind of phrasing he has used here about David, but he also looks forward to a future David. How can we look forward to a future David when past David has been dead over 300 years? Everything God says about future David will be true in Jesus. He will be the Prince of Peace, the Good Shepherd, and the servant who will lay down his life for God’s sheep. Jesus will be the King, yet he will display absolute humility as he comes to earth in the form of a servant and lays down his life for us.
If we see the humble King David and the even more humble King Jesus, how can we not also respond in humility to the promises God has made? Unfortunately everything in our culture points us away from humility. We get constantly pointed towards viewing ourselves as the center of the universe. We hear to look out for number one and to do whatever pleases us no matter what happens. We hear the greatest thing we can do is express whatever is in our hearts at any given moment. Has this led us to be a happier society? Do we treat each other with more respect? Are we healthier financially because of this approach? Has this produced more responsible and caring leaders? Of course it has not. Instead we must turn to genuine humility. We recognize we have nothing, are nothing, and can do nothing apart from the grace of God in Christ. Everything we are and may be is because of God and his great grace. Since we are debtors to grace alone, shouldn’t this change the way we treat other people? If I’m the center of the universe other people are completely expendable. Since I know I am a debtor to mercy alone I know I treat other people with the grace and mercy I have received.
One of the places where I think we need to demonstrate more humility is in listening to people. I was talking to one of my friends this week who is a writer and editor and we were discussing the propensity of people to fill up on news from talking head television shows and talk radio. He said the strongest emotions are fear and loathing. If I am afraid of you and don’t like you, I am going to want to tune in to something that is going to beat you up and tell me all of the bad stuff about you. What this winds up doing is making us suspicious of the people I don’t like. So we wind up with Republicans and Democrats not liking each other and assuming the worst of each other. We end up with people on different sides of gender debates only knowing what they know about the other side from third parties. “Red-blooded” Americans become suspicious of immigrants because we are sure they are destroying our way of life. Can I make a suggestion? Turn off your TV, radio, and disconnect from the internet. Talking to actual flesh and blood people to find out why they think what they think about things. You may find you still disagree, but now you have had the humility to listen instead of merely assuming things about people. It’s just a practical way to love your neighbor.
Develop a Healthy View of the Church
He does hit one other note here we should see. David also says “and who is like your people Israel?” He speaks of how Israel was redeemed because of his promise by their exodus from Egypt and his driving out the other nations so they might dwell in their land. Now God has redeemed them to be a people for himself. David says God made a name for himself by doing great and awesome things for his people to redeem them as a people for himself. Notice he redeemed them from Egypt. Then he established them as his people forever. He of course refers here to the Exodus, where he redeems the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt through his mighty works. There of course were the plagues culminating in the Passover and killing of the firstborn of every home in Egypt. Then his people crossed the Red Sea in an amazing display of God’s power and glory. He provided for them as they wandered in the wilderness by giving them water from a rock and raining bread from heaven. They were to dwell in the land as his people.
The New Testament takes the language about Israel and applies it to the church, but it does so because it first applies the language about Israel to Christ. When Jesus was a boy his family fled into Egypt and returned when Herod died. The Gospel writer says this fulfilled the Scripture which says, “out of Egypt I called my son.” About whom was this originally written? Israel, and now what was written about Israel was applied to Jesus who is the true chosen Son of God. Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years and Jesus spent forty days in the desert tempted by Satan. Israel built a temple where the glory of God would dwell and Jesus was the new temple in whom God’s glory dwelt in bodily form. So first and ultimately the people of God Israel points to Jesus.
The people Israel also point to the church as the people of God. Listen to the language Peter applies to the church in 1 Peter 2. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Much of the language about Israel in the Old Testament comes from their being chosen by God out of the people of the world. Did you know that same kind of language is used about the church? We could look at many other passages, but just listen to this one. “You are a chosen race.” We are a people whom God chose to bring to Christ before the foundation of the world. He chose us out of this world to belong to him and be his people. This choice manifests itself in our having faith in Christ, but it began with God. We are now a royal priesthood. Israel had priests who represented the people before God. Now because of the death of Jesus every Christian has immediate access to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. We can do this because in Christ we are the children of God. He has adopted us as his own and we have the full rights and privileges springing from what it means to be called “son.”
When he says we once weren’t a people but now we are and we had not received mercy but now we have received mercy, this harkens back to the words of God in Hosea 2. At God’s command Hosea marries a prostitute and they have three children. The son is named after the slaughter in the valley of Jezreel. The daughters were named “Lo ruhamah” and “Lo ammi.” Their names mean “no mercy” or “not loved” and “not my people.” There names were symbols for what the Lord says about his people. He tells Hosea that once it could have been said of them “they are not my people” and “they have not received mercy,” now they are God’s people and they have received mercy. In the same way those who trust in Christ experience the full mercy of God. We also become the people of God. We once wandered in the wilderness of isolation from God and estrangement from what it means to be known and loved, but in Christ we come near to God and experience what it means to belong to him.
As the people of God we need to understand who we are. We need to know the redemption we have in Christ and the privilege of being God’s people because it thoroughly changes what we live for. Notice Peter says we are all these things because we proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light. In our life together and in our lives individually, we exist to proclaim through the words we speak and the deeds we do the glorious excellencies of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We were made by him and we have experienced his redemption, and now together we we paint for the world the glorious picture of God’s glory and redemption.
I keep saying “together” because we get tempted to think about the Christian life with an individual bent, but most of the language about the Christian life in the Bible is communal. Jesus said the world would know we are his disciples by our love for each other. In Colossians Paul says we are God’s chosen ones and so we should live towards our brothers and sisters with kindness, mercy, love, and forgiveness. This assumes we live life together, and yet how many of us have so completely arranged our lives around other priorities that we cannot faithfully live out who Jesus has called us to be? Can I make the radical suggestion that Jesus’ priorities for our lives should be our priorities for our lives? What does this then look like? It means we get strategic in the way we look at our lives. We don’t get our kids involved in sports only for the potential scholarship down the road. If our kids are going to play sports, it’s because we can best glorify God as a family by involvement in this and we see the strategic missional possibilities. This means we link up with the other brothers and sisters whose kids are part of the team and look at how we can be a blessing to the other families in Jesus’ name. It means we think differently about our kids and sports so that we are not constantly striving for my kid to get put first. Instead it looks like me treating other people with humility and grace, demonstrating the work of Jesus in my heart even when it comes to my kids. It means we view our homes not only as a place where we rest, but as a place where we invite in our friends and neighbors for the sake of the Gospel. This means I look for opportunities to have people over and to strategically find ways to get to know and love my neighbors. And it means we lock arms with other believers to see how we can do this together. This means when I approach my hobbies, I take opportunities to look at how I involve other Christians and people who don’t know Jesus.
I was thinking this week about my conversion. When I tell the story of becoming a believer in Jesus, it’s the story of people through their Christian lives showing and telling me the Gospel. It started with my mother who faithfully prayed for me and made sure I was gathering with God’s people to hear his word. It’s my friend Wyatt telling me about the Gospel as we pushed shopping carts in the Wal-Mart parking lot and showing me in his interaction with his friends that a group of guys could laugh and have fun without getting plastered. It was my classmate Robye telling me she was praying for me and living a godly life, living a life that was separate from her unbelieving friends and treating people with grace and kindness. There was a guy named Tim who talked to me about Jesus and offered to come and read the Bible with me in the mornings. And he was part of a group of guys I got to know my freshman year of college I was around some. They talked about their faith in a natural way. Their conversations demonstrated they knew and loved God and that they cared about people and wanted them to know Jesus. There was Jason who demonstrated in his life what I was missing, the reality of knowing God. And he did so in a way not that was condescending, but a “I want what that guy has” kind of way. In Christ we get to be part of the story of people being called from darkness and into the marvelous light of God’s grace. This happens best not just in my individual life, but in our life together of following Jesus.
Today, if you have not trusted in Christ, realize you can become part of this everlasting people of God. You can go from estrangement to being brought near. You can go from darkness to light and from shame into the wonderful experience of forgiveness. This happens not through being better, but by trusting in the perfect one. Jesus gave his life for you and by faith he will bring you back to God.
Christians, realize what it means to be the children of God. We belong to him. We have access to him and get to know him. Let us let every reality in our lives be shaped by the wonderful blessing of knowing him.
For Further Reading:
Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson