a sermon based on 2 Samuel 7:1-14a
by Rev. Thomas Hall
If you walked past the church on your way
to work this week you may have noticed something strange. The words on the church board
kept changing. Chuck, our office administrator, got his aerobic exercise just running back
and forth with the newest worship theme change. On Monday, the message read, "Building
a Condo for God." By Wednesday the words had changed to "Im going
to live in a Lord-Built House," and on Thursday the proposed change had become, "Why
God isnt a Republican." And Saturday, the title had changed yet again to "When
God Says No." I was afraid that if we changed the marquee any more, borough
council might pass a law against erecting bad titles on Park Avenue signs without a
All of this sign-changing may have a lot to do with the mixed signals and motives that
comes from our lesson in 2 Samuel 7. See what kind of theme or title you can come up as we
walk through the story about David and Nathan.
We find David at an all-time high. Hes taken the elevator all the way to the top.
Hes top in military prowess. Hes slapped down the Philistines and theyre
off in the corner licking their wounds for the moment. Hes top in diplomacy. By
pulling together the north and the south, hes ended a Vietnam tragedy of senseless
killing. And hes very shrewd as a politician-he has taken Jerusalem and made it the
new nations Washington DC. Now leaders from the north and south can meet on neutral
turf. Not only that but David even takes the lead in worship. He dares to be passionate
for God. Doesnt matter whos watching or whispering about him, he worships God
with song and dance and great celebration.
So far so good in the story. David is just another kid from the hood who makes
good. Hes become a top-notch leader and a man who values an active relationship with
So what do you do when you reach the top and youre looking at the rest of the
world from way up in that big corner office? You have no more Goliaths to kick around. No
more Philistines to beat on. For the first time since he was a kid way back on the farm,
David finds Shalom, peace. It is well with his soul. The kids are playing around
the house, his wives are happy and he sits in front of the fireplace watches the flames
dance and crackle. And he begins to reminisce.
He remembers his humble beginnings-how God took him as an obscure shepherd and now,
twenty-fours years later, has made him into one of Israels finest kings. He
remembers running for his life, fighting enemies, sleeping in dank caves having nothing to
hold on to but a sliver of a promise from God. Now after all of these years, God has
blessed him with a full life and an upscale house, made out of cedar-the best wood money
could buy. And thats when David comes up with a dream. He wants to do something nice
for God. He wants to build God a house. Thats how I came up with the first worship
theme, "Building a Condo for God." David wants to build God a nice house like
So he shares that dream with Nathan. Nathan is a prophet, which means that hes
sort of a conduit through whom God speaks Gods will. More than that, though, I think
Nathan is a friend, a pastor / a counselor kind of guy. Nathan must have loved this kind
of conversation. Pastors are ecstatic when people come up to offer to do something for
God. Ever wonder the kinds of dreams pastors have at night? In their dreams they see
people packed into their church and they overhear conversations like, "Hey! Its
my turn to do refreshments, you did it last week." Or "Pastor, is it okay to
give more than ten percent?" Or, "Darn, theres no more room on the front
pew!" Or "No fair! I was supposed to clean up the nursery."
Nathans put out enough fires, helped enough people through crisis, struggled with
a lack of volunteers to know a good thing when he saw it. "Yes, of course, David, do
whats in your heart! Nathan walks off muttering to himself how cool that someone is
actually volunteering to do something without being asked! What could be better?
But that night God assesses Davids proposal in a very different light. Turns out
that there is reason for suspicion about motives. So Nathan returns to David the next
morning with a sobering message. Im going to paraphrase it:
"You want to build me a house? Forget it-Im going to build you a house.
This kingdom that Im shaping here isnt about you, its about what I do
through you. Im the builder here, not you. Were talking kingdom, and I am the
king, not you. Where did you ever come up with the idea that I needed some posh palace to
live in? Remember when you were a nobody, out there in the pasture with sheep? I was
watching you, your every move. And remember when you thought you were a goner, you just
couldnt escape? I was right there helping you out. Ive been working on you
since your sheepherding days.
This is not all about you, David. Ive not brought you into power to give focus to
your greatness, but to give visibility to what Im doing. You think you know what
kingdom is all about, but the kingdom Im building is way out of your league.
Youre just a small piece of my very big plans for this world."
The message that Nathan delivers is full of God-God is the subject of twenty-three
verbs in his message and these verbs carry the action. David is full of what he is going
to do for God, but God dominates the conversation with what God has done, what God is
doing right now, and what God will do in the future.
Heres what I think is happening in the story. David is very close to stepping
over the line, like all of us have done. From being full of God to being full of himself.
Where do you think he got the idea to build God a house? From all the other cultures
around him. Everyone knew that the way to protect ones assets was to tether
ones god down to a temple. Everybody else did that to ensure protection and favor of
the gods. David is simply following ancient Near Eastern protocol-making God a house to
ensure that his little kingdom will survive. He wants to use God to legitimize his reign.
So, like the city-states around him, he wants to tether God to Jerusalem.
But if David goes down this path, it wont be long before it will be hard to tell
between Davids policys and Gods. When God lives next door, it is easy
for personal agendas to get mixed up with worship. I have heard some persons seeking
office try to manipulate God so that people who worship God will throw votes in their
direction. Thats the line that David unknowingly is about to cross. Thats
where "Why God isnt a Republican," came into play. Its so easy to
mix our own agendas with Gods agenda.
I remember about five years ago a young man bursting into my office breathless.
"God spoke to me to gather all the churches in this area together for a service of
unity. Were going to fill the city ball park and have bands and sell hot dogs and
praise God." He was so eager, excited and so enthusiastic with his vision! "I
think that would be a fine idea; well need to gather our ministers together for
prayer and then talk about this," I said.
"No," the young man blurted out. "God wants us to do this now in the
next several weeks." But what about PR and getting the word out, I asked.
"Ill get some posters out and God will bring them in." (I wondered if
maybe he had just watched Field of Dreams, "build it and they will
come.") I tried to suggest that we first convince other pastors that this would be a
good idea and then they could share this with their congregations. But at every turn, the
young man kept refusing any advice saying that God had told him to just hold this service.
The event, of course, was a non-event. There were plenty of tee-shirts and hotdogs and
one band showed, but no one was there to enjoy them. I spoke with the young man that day
and tried to encourage him. "Your idea is great, but when you put God into your
agenda youre headed for trouble."
The young mans passion for unity and worship actually did happen. I began an
adventure with another minister about two years ago - we began meeting for prayer. Then
some others joined us and finally we were up to fifteen and twenty ministers who came to
pray together. Out of that we decided to let our congregations in on this cool thing. So
we scheduled a Concert of Prayer in May-turns out, it was a timely moment in our history,
for it was the very week of the Columbine tragedy. Over 450 folks came to grieve and pray
for our schools, teachers, and students.
What was once an idea-initially from an impulsive young man, eventually became a
powerful expression that continues to draw four and five hundred persons each year.
A lot of agendas going around our congregation, including my own - big plans for youth,
for our older adults, for our music ministries, for our outreach and small group
ministries. Lots of plans out there. And most of them need to start yesterday.
Lets begin our life together by taking our cue from David. Did you get his
response? "Then King David went in and sat before the LORD." David sat.
Probably the single most critical act that David ever did: he sat. More critical than
fighting Goliaths. More critical than claiming Jerusalem. More critical than bringing the
Ark into Jerusalem. Because what David now does in response to these words from God will
either disqualify him or honor him in the work for which he has been anointed, trained,
preserved and empowered.
Have you ever sat before God? Put every agenda, every ulterior motive aside because you
just needed to sit before God? Someone has said that childish prayer always asks, but
childlike prayer is intent on relationship. To sit before God for no other reason than to
receive from Gods love is one of the most important things you will ever do.
By sitting down before God, David got out of the drivers seat, took off his royal
robes, abdicated his kingly authority, and deliberately placed himself before God the real
King. In that place of sitting, that David traded in his plans for Gods plans. He
was bursting with plans for God, so full of desire for God. Stopping David was like
reigning in some wild runaway horses. But Nathan stopped him. More importantly, David let
himself be stopped by God. A man full of himself is now getting full of God.
And thats what I want for our church. A people and a pastor who know how to sit
before the Holy One, who are full of God and willing to trade in their big plans for
Gods bigger plans. Thats how I got to the final change on the marquee:
"When God Says No."
Our plans can change as quickly as the church sign did this past week. But one thing
will never change. Far more important than our work for God, is that God is building this
congregation-a house that will be a legacy for generations without end. Amen.