At times, we don’t experience the gracious heart of God in daily life, because we insist that God must be gracious in the particular way we want him to
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I promised I wouldn’t preach the same sermon yet again, and I won’t. However, I do want to preach this time from the same text as the last sermon. Last time we looked at what this text meant for who we are as Christians, and how we should function as a church. But there is a lot more here to consider as well.
The first thing that struck me when I read this was the safety and freedom there is in living in daily relationship with God. God doesn’t allow our misguided good intentions to go unchecked. Both Nathan and David had their hearts in the right place. They were sincere. Both of them, however, were sincerely wrong. Even so, because they were keeping in step with the Lord, they were able to hear when the Lord corrected them. And the Lord did correct them. He didn’t say, “shoot, they got it wrong again. Oh well.” No, when they didn’t get it right away, he spoke to them again. So we can trust God’s leadership. Picture someone walking with a friend who is blind and using a cane. They come the corner of a street where there is traffic. The friend says quietly, “stop here.” The blind person doesn’t hear it, and keeps walking. Of course the guide is going to repeat himself, more loudly, and maybe even grab onto his blind friend, to prevent him from being hurt. Do we expect any less from God?
Now, one important thing here is that Nathan and David really did want to do whatever God wanted in this situation. They weren’t insisting on their own way. So when they made the wrong choice, they were able to hear the Lord when he spoke to them about it. Unfortunately, sometimes we are like a blind person who says to our guide, “I don’t trust you, so I won’t go where you are taking me.” We ignore Him when he says “turn here,” or “stop there.” Then, sad to say, often we blame God the bad things that result from our unwillingness to listen to him. But when Nathan and David were open, the Lord kept them moving in the right direction, and they were able to hear it.
This is tremendously comforting to me. Sometimes, we get so caught up in wanting to do the right thing that we become almost paralyzed with fear that we will make the wrong choice. We think, “If I screw this up, it will be disaster. I could destroy God’s plan for my life. I could destroy my chance at happiness.” Maybe we’re looking at a job or career move. Maybe we’re buying a house, or choosing a college or deciding what we want to be when we grow up. Maybe we’re trying to decide if we should marry someone or not. Brothers and sisters in Jesus, we can have tremendous freedom, hope and joy in these choices. If we truly want God to do what he wants in and through our lives, then step forward boldly and make your best choice. If you are wrong, the Lord will correct you. We don’t have to be experts at hearing from God. But we have to be open to letting him do whatever he wants. If we maintain that openness, we’ll be able to hear it if we start down a path where he doesn’t want us to go.
The fact that we really can trust the Lord to guide us is wonderfully comforting. It is part of God’s grace. But wait, there’s even more. David, good-hearted man that he was, was thinking like this: “God chose me. He delivered me from Saul. He gave me victory over the Philistines. I have a secure place and even my own palace. God’s done so much for me. Now, I want to do something for God.” So he said, “I will build you a house, God.”
But God said this: “No. I know you want to do something for me. But I want to do more for you. You want to build me a house. Instead, I am going to build you a house.” The word used for “house” is the same all the way through. It is the Hebrew word pronounced “va’yit.” This is a pretty flexible word. It is used for David’s palace, for describing a dwelling and also for family, line of descendants and so on. I think the Lord deliberately inspired the writer to use the same word, in order to emphasize what he was doing. He was piling on the grace.
What God promises is that David will have a descendant who will rule forever. David’s descendant will preside over the kingdom of God. This is a prophecy. Now, I have said before that prophecy is kind of like viewing a mountain range from a long way away. It looks like all the mountains are next to each other in a line across the horizon. But when you actually get into the mountains, you often find a great gap between peaks that looked like they were right next to each other when viewed from a distance. In the same way, it looks like all parts of the prophecy are supposed to take place at the same time; yet when it comes you find that parts of prophecy were fulfilled a few years after, and others hundreds of years later. Here, the prophecy is not a perfect revelation. But it shows that there will be a descendant of David who reigns forever. This descendant will be chastised and punished – just as Jesus was punished for our sins. God will do something eternal through this person. There are a few things here that may refer to Solomon, but clearly, the prophecy is talking mainly about Jesus.
God didn’t just say that David was his favorite choice for king. He didn’t just give him victory over a giant. He didn’t just take care of him in those years of hardship and trouble. He didn’t just protect David during battle and make him victorious – often against overwhelming odds. He didn’t just actually make David king. He didn’t just deliver David from his enemies and give him a secure place to live and rule. He also promised (and delivered generations later) that David’s name and family line would be honored forever. He promised that the messiah would be descended from David. He is showering grace after grace upon David. You can’t out-give God.
David, understandably, was overwhelmed. He went and “sat before Lord.” And then he prayed. David says something very important in verse nineteen that seems to be lost in translation in many English versions of the bible. He says,
What You have done so far was a little thing to You, Lord GOD, for You have also spoken about Your servant’s house in the distant future. And this is a revelation for mankind, Lord GOD. (2Sam 7:19, HCSB)
In the NIV this reads: “Is this your usual way of dealing with man?” In the NAS it says “And this is the custom of man.” But the literal Hebrew says this: “And this the torah mankind, Lord God.”
The Hebrew word “torah” has various related meanings, as many words do. It can mean custom or rule. But the most common meaning is “law of God.” In fact, during the time of Jesus, torah is one of two terms that describe God’s revelation in the Bible. When a Jew said “the torah (law) and the prophets” he meant “the word of God as revealed in the bible.”
So what David is really saying here is also a kind of prophecy. He is saying that this promise of the descendant who will come – this promise of a messiah who will reign forever – is God’s very word for mankind. It is a law and a promise for all humanity. The gospel of John describes the Messiah (Jesus) like this:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14)
One thousand years before John, in this text, David said, “this promise of a Messiah is the Word of God.”
In verse 21 David says this:
Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it.
This shows us that the promise is according to God’s own heart. Some translations have “will” but “heart” is more literal. This promise reveals the generous, gracious, loving, wise heart of God.
So let’s make this personal right now. Do you believe that this extreme graciousness is according to the heart of God? Even more personal – do you believe that this great grace is the way that God deals with you?
Let me remind you about David. He lied in a moment of pressure. He blew his top when he was insulted. He ignored what God said about marriage. He was not perfect. God was not gracious to David because David deserved it. David did not deserve it. God was gracious because that is the heart of God.
So set aside any thought of “well, I don’t deserve God to treat me that way.” Of course you don’t. Neither do I. Neither did David. Do you understand and believe that if you let him, God will deal with you in the same way he dealt with David?
I would guess that a lot of us don’t experience God in this way, and sometimes we believe that we cannot. There are reasons for this.
At times, I think we don’t experience the gracious heart of God in day to day life, because we insist that God must be gracious in the particular way we want him to. We want a better income, and so if he doesn’t do that, even though he is offering us tremendous joy through relationships with dear friends, we don’t really receive that grace. We want healing, and so we spurn the grace he offers us to grow and have joy even in pain. We want our spouse to change, and so we don’t want to receive the grace the Lord offers us through that person – just as he is. When we have an attitude of entitlement – “God must provide grace in exactly the way I want it” – it is difficult to really receive.
Jesus was full of sorrow at the way so many people refused the grace he has to offer:
37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! She who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, yet you were not willing! (Matt 23:37, HCSB)
At other times, we don’t recognize the gracious heart of God because we have allowed lies about God into our lives, especially through difficult events. A child dies. A spouse leaves. And we interpret those events in such a way that we begin to distrust the heart of God. The first problem creeps in when we insist on understanding everything. Why did the child have to die? I’m not saying we can’t ever honestly struggle with our pain, but I do believe that sometimes the answers to those questions are simply bigger than we can understand. When we demand that everything must make sense in a way that we can understand, it is easy to start to believe that God isn’t the good Person that the Bible tells us he is. Don’t get me wrong. If you follow this blog, you know I am an intellectual, and I’m all for using your mind. But the human mind is finite. Trying to understand an infinite God is not logical. At times, faith calls us to trust even beyond our understanding. When we can’t understand, we are faced with a choice – will we trust that God’s heart is good and gracious towards us in ways we can’t comprehend, or will we demand that the universe function according our own personal sense of justice and goodness? This text calls us to trust is that the heart of God is good and full of gracious intentions for us.