This sermon was preached at First Presbyterian Church in Nebraska City, NE on October 23, 2017. The text was 2 Samuel 7:1-17.
Audio of the sermon can be found here.
We’ve come a long way since last week. Last week we talked Hannah and her giving over of her son Samuel to God, to be raised by Eli as a nazirite. Since that reading, Samuel grew up, he responded to God’s call by saying “Here I am, Lord” and became the prophet of Israel. The Israelites became convinced that they wanted, that they need a king. To quote Baptist blogger Chuck Hooten, “Israel wanted a king. For years God had acted as their provider, protector, and sovereign but in the face of mounting pressure from rival nations and the innate human desire to look and sound like everyone around them Israel wanted a change. They wanted a king that was made of flesh and blood. The prophet Samuel begged them to reconsider. He told them that a king would tax them, oppress them, force them to work for his pleasure, and take their sons off to war. The people were unswayed. It was a king of flesh that they wanted and so it was a king of flesh that God would provide.
When we meet Saul in the book of 1 Samuel he is everything and more that the people wanted. He was tall, athletic, and handsome. If a group of people were in the market for a king and Saul walked in the room the search would always be over. Saul was king material…or so they thought. Saul proves to be a reflection of the people themselves. Just like Israel he was brash, prideful, arrogant, and quick to make hasty decisions that would have lasting consequences.”
It didn’t take long for Saul, to royally (pun intended) mess things up. David was chosen as a boy to be faithful to God and to serve Saul, he was taken from a pasture, he slayed Goliath, he marched in battle with Saul, when Saul and David ‘s companion Jonathan were ultimately killed David became the King of Israel, he was a warrior king, and to this day is the model for kingship in for the Israelites. He, with God’s help, defeated all of Israel’s enemies, he even conquered Jerusalem to where it became the capital of the nation of Israel, it is still called Royal David’s City, we often sing about it during Advent. The King of Tyre builds David a royal palace and then… Deep Breath
David sits down, all the enemies are defeated, he has a moment to rest, probably one of the first moments since he was a boy. He surveys home, his kingdom, and he reflects on his life. He decides that God wants, God needs the same things that he needs or wants. He decides that he will build God a house of cedar.
He takes this notion to his trusted advisor, Nathan, a prophet, who initially says, “sounds like a good idea.”
Then God comes to Nathan and gives him a different word, “5 Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in?6 I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle.7 Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders[a] of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”
David is then reminded, we are reminded of how God has been with David from the beginning: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; 9 and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you. Then comes the promise, not only has God been with David, God promises to BE with David. “I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. 15 But I will not take[b] my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me;[c] your throne shall be established forever.”
In short, God tells David, thanks but I got this. You do your job and I’ll do mine.
I will tell you, the first time I read this passage I was reminded of a catch phrase used by The Rock during his time in the WWE, he would say, “Know your role!”
It reminded me of playing football. Each person on the team has a role, quarterback, wide receivers, linemen, running backs, linebackers, defensive backs, coaches, trainers, equipment managers, cheerleaders, on and on. They all have a role, and the teams that do have players that focus on their role, they don’t try to do too much, they do their job and they do it well.
This also works in the communities, in companies, on farms, in churches, even in households. When everyone knows their role, and when others are willing to support them in that role, the whole house, church, farm, company, or community benefits.
I have a role here at First Presbyterian Church, our session has a role, our deacons have a role, our Presbyterian Women have a role, our Sunday School teachers have a role, each and every one of you has a role to play in our vision of Planting Seeds of God’s Light here in Nebraska City and throughout the world. For some this role is performed outside the walls of this church. I asked in a recent Builder article for you to start to think about where you volunteer your time, where to donate money, where do you serve? In your bulletins there is a slip of paper for you to start to thinking about that and write it down. In a few minutes during the offering I would like you to place it in the offering plate so we can compile of a list of all the places that First Presbyterian is working.
My guess is that some of you, do too much, some of you do too much not because you are greedy or controlling, but because you care, because you want to give back to God and to the community that raised you, that has done so much for you. This is not a bad thing, but it might also not be a good thing.
David was reminded of his role, he was reminded that is wasn’t his job to build a house for God, that God was, is, and will always be in charge. God had tapped someone else for that job. God promises David that he will never let him or his household go. This is the beginning of the Davidic line that leads straight to Jesus. There are ups and down, valleys and mountaintops, righteous and wicked players, but God never forgets God’s promise to David.
God will not, has not, forgotten his promise to us.
We have been here for almost exactly 161 years, we have had 30 pastors, we have had over a 1,000 members. Currently our doors are open and our facilities are used by groups from around the community. Last week alone, we hosted two funerals that were attended by so many people we had to open up the wall. We have members on just about every board in the city, we have members who volunteer their time, energy, intelligence, and love for organizations on the local, state, and national level. We have members who do things for others, in the name of God, that we will never hear about or never see.
God is abounding in steadfast love here. It’s not always pretty, it’s not always a mountaintop, but even in the valleys we have seen that God is with us. Now for us, we have discerned that our job our role as a church here in Nebraska City is to Plant Seeds of God’s Light. Let us remember is not our role to save the world, or solve all of its ills, it is not our role to do everything or be all things to all people. Our role, to quote borrow from Rev. Dr. Joel Lundak, is to plant as many seeds as we can, for as many people as we can, for as long as we can. We might not get to see the fruits of our labor and we may never get to know if the harvest was good, but we do know that God is faithful and that, like David, God will never take away God’s steadfast love from us.
May it be so.