What’s the best holiday you ever had? What was the best MOMENT you can remember on that holiday? What’s the first image that comes into your mind?
Perhaps it was doing NOTHING. Perhaps it was full of ADVENTURE.
Perhaps it was sitting in the shade under a palm tree watching the sunset, or swimming the crystal clear waters of a deserted beach, or standing on the top of a mountain soaking in a gorgeous view, or catching a huge fish.
Perhaps it was being overcome by the beauty and history of a famous castle or cathedral or art gallery or museum.
Perhaps it was the excitement of a concert or sporting event. Or the tastes and smells and sights of a top class restaurant. Or a cultural experience vastly different from your own.
Perhaps you were ON YOUR OWN. Or maybe it was improved by experiencing it with your husband or wife, or your family. Perhaps it was IN A BIG GROUP.
Whatever it was, AT THAT MOMENT you felt more alive than ever before. More HUMAN. And your experience of life was richer and more profound than ever before. Colours deeper, smells stronger, tastes better, memories more unforgettable. It was PARADISE.
For many of us that experience is one we HOLD ON TO. And we long to experience it AGAIN. We want to BRING IT BACK with us. And live it ALL THE TIME.
My Dad lives at Terrigal. And it’s a popular holiday destination. And when we’re there, it’s amazing how many people spend time browsing in the real estate windows. Day-dreaming about leaving their REAL life, and living NEAR THE BEACH.
I wonder if you’ve caught yourself having the SAME daydreams. “If only… Life would really be fantastic if we moved here. All our problems would be OVER. Perhaps we could actually DO IT – do the sea change, or the tree change!” It’s the dream of PARADISE REVISITED.
But the reality is that special moments like those holiday memories are just PASSING. FLEETING. Here for a day, and then gone. Leaving you HUNGRY for MORE. That’s LIFE! More GRIND than GLORY. More EXERTION than ESCAPE. More VOCATION than VACATION.
And that pattern we experience on A SMALL SCALE is the same pattern we see in the story of God’s world. It’s the one story of the Bible. The story about that one perfect moment. Paradise! Created by God according to his perfect design. Then LOSING it. And life after being about frustration and effort.
And then, it’s a story about God’s plan and promise to RETURN to that. Paradise RESTORED. Even BETTER than before. Never to be lost again!
Abram to David
A quick re-cap. The story began with God making his world PERFECT. Paradise. Perfect relationships all around. God’s kingdom, with God’s PEOPLE in God’s PLACE, under God’s RULE. Under God’s BLESSING.
Part 2. But paradise was ONLY FLEETING. Through Satan and temptation and rebellion, it became PARADISE LOST. Frustration and death replaced blessing and life. And the earth was CURSED. Living APART from God’s blessing.
Part 3. (We saw this last week). But God was committed to CONTINUE HIS PLAN. So he called Abram. And promised to BLESS him. To make him the Father of a NATION, in a LAND, with his offspring to be the means by which God would BLESS THE WHOLE WORLD.
It was a commitment to make him the pioneer for a whole new kingdom of God. Once again, God’s people, living in God’s place under God’s rule.
And that’s where we left it last week. With the PROMISE of paradise. Of blessing and kingdom. But it was only A PROMISE. Like that distant holiday. It’s on the calendar. The accommodation and flights are booked. But there’s a long way to go before you GET THERE.
Today we jump forward a long way. And see the kingdom of God STARTING TO TAKE SHAPE.
Long story, short. Abraham eventually has a child Isaac. And over time that ONE grows into MANY. The whole clan is living in the land of Canaan. The land God promised them. But they’re NOMADS. Wandering around in tents. And the land’s not THEIRS. They’re surrounded by other tribes and clans and nations.
And God’s curse on the ground has meant there’s A DROUGHT. And a FAMINE. So the family moves to Egypt where there’s FOOD. And God BLESSES them there and they grow into a NATION.
Now they have THE NATION part of the promise, but not THE LAND.
Eventually God delivers on THAT TOO. He rescues them miraculously out of Egypt. Leads them through the wilderness into the Promised Land.
Now they have the NATION and the LAND. But before long, they’re not living under God’s RULE. They’re doing things THEIR way. The refrain of the era of the Judges is that Israel had no king and everyone did as he saw fit. NOT living under God’s kingship.
And so there’s not peace and blessing like God promised. The nations within and around them keep irritating like a blister. Never giving them rest.
And that continues through the reign of judges like Samson and then the first king, King Saul.
The Kingdom of God under David
Until we get to King David. Which is where we pick up the story TODAY.
In 1 Sam 16 God chooses David to replace Saul. He’s not the best looking or the strongest or tallest. God tells the prophet Samuel, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at THE HEART.” (1 Sam 16:7).
David may not be PERFECT, but we’re told he has A HEART AFTER GOD. Above all else, he wants to serve and follow GOD. In other words, he wants to be living in God’s kingdom. As his person in his place under his rule.
And that makes him the right choice to leads God’s people. As God works out his commitment to make Abraham’s family a blessing.
And, in the course of time, he succeeds Saul. 2 Sam 5:12 tells us that God ESTABLISHED David as king over Israel and exalted his kingdom.
The kingdom of God starts to take shape. In real and concrete ways.
He conquers Jerusalem, fortifies it, and builds a palace there. He defeats the nations around him.V10 of 2 Sam 5 says that David became more and more powerful BECAUSE THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY WAS WITH HIM.
And then, in Ch 6, he brings the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. The symbolic throne of God arrives in the capital city of Israel. With all the fanfare and celebration of a royal visit. God is king, ruling in the midst of his people.
Thousands of people rejoice with David, and sacrifice fellowship offerings to God. David opens the royal pantry, and everyone gets a take-home bonus hamper to celebrate.
God is making good on his promises to Abraham. Blessing him with descendants and a land. It’s God’s kingdom REALISED. The IDEAL kingdom. Israel are prosperous, numerous and obedient to God. God’s people, in God’s place under God’s RULE. It’s, at least on the WAY to, PARADISE REVISITED.
A house for David (2 Sam 7)
And it’s at THIS point that we get to Ch 7. David’s sitting on his palace veranda, looking out over his kingdom. Paradise!
Solid prosperous city? Check!
Safety from enemies? Check!
Numerous and contented people? Check!
Fancy palace? Check!
Wives and children galore? Check!
Suitable house for God? A temple to worship him in???? …
He looks down to the tabernacle. It’s where the Ark of the Covenant is stored. The priests and the sacrifices and the altars and the candles are there. It’s where the people go to meet their God.
But it’s only A TENT. And it’s looking a little tattered and worse for wear. It’s been with the people all the way through the desert, and through the judges, and the reign of Saul.
Hardly FITTING, thinks David, for the powerful and faithful God whose given David such a solid kingdom.
So David decides he wants to build God a temple. V2. He calls in Nathan the prophet, and says.
Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”
It sounds like a good plan to Nathan, so he tells David to do whatever he thinks is best. But later that night God has A DIFFERENT idea. He appears to Nathan in a dream, and he says (v5)
5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? 6 I HAVE NOT DWELT IN A HOUSE FROM THE DAY I BROUGHT THE ISRAELITES UP OUT OF EGYPT TO THIS DAY. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. 7 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” ‘
In other words, “What do I need a house for? Never needed one BEFORE. It’s not as if I actually LIVE there, anyway!!”
And even though he’s given David so much already. God’s got even MORE in store.
It’s like those ads on the TV shopping channel. “But wait there’s more! Not only can you get the four stainless steel saucepans. But if you buy NOW, we’ll throw in four extra sharp kitchen knives. And that’s NOT ALL!”
Look at v8. God’s listing all he’s thrown into the deal ALREADY for David.
I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you.
He’s established his kingdom. But wait, there’s more! And notice the SPECIFICS.
Now I will make your NAME great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth. 10 And I will provide a PLACE for my PEOPLE Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning
A name, a place, a people. Planted – safe and secure. Sound familiar? It’s God’s promises to Abraham. Promises to restore PARADISE. To bring in his kingdom.
But here’s the BEST bit. God’s got a sense of humour. The end of v11.
“‘The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish A HOUSE FOR YOU:
God’s making a PUN. A HEAVENLY Dad-joke. You see, HOUSE has at least two meanings. It can mean BUILDING – like David was thinking. A temple or a palace. But it can also mean DYNASTY or FAMILY. Like the royal house of Windsor. And that’s what God’s talking about. David’s not going to build a house for HIM. He’s going to build a house for DAVID. A family line. A DYNASTY. Just like he’d promised Abraham. Look at v12.
12 When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up YOUR OFFSPRING to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.'”
He’s talking about Solomon. And Solomon WOULD end up building a temple for God. But what REALLY matters is that God’s going to establish David’s family line. Descendants who would sit on the throne of David FOREVER.
They’re big promises! And a big VISION. Of God’s kingdom, ruled over by his appointed king. Obedient to God’s rule. Established and secure FOREVER.
And in the fullness of time, we see what eternity really LOOKS LIKE. Which David’s greatest son comes to rule. King Jesus. The perfect king who brings in the PERFECT kingdom. That really WILL last forever.
David’s response (18-29)
And David is just BLOWN AWAY. When Nathan passes on the message, v18, David goes in and SITS before the LORD. It’s the response we’ve seen from lots of the gold medal winners at the Olympics in the past couple of weeks.
They cross the line and they fall to the ground. Sometimes it’s with EXHAUSTION. But often it’s just as the ENORMITY of what’s happened hits them.
And I think that’s David’s reaction. He can’t believe how HUGE God’s goodness is. V18.
“Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign LORD, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign LORD?
You’ve done so much already, and now you’re promising for the future! Completely undeserved GRACE!
How often do you feel like THAT at what God’s done for you? Or are you more likely to GRUMBLE?
But not David. He goes on to praise God for the greatness of his character and his work in the world. V22.
22 “How GREAT you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is NO ONE like you, and there is NO God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 23 And who is like your people Israel-the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? 24 You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, O LORD, have become their God.
All things God’s ALREADY DONE. Things that show he’s WORTHY of David’s praise.
And then, from v25, David turns his attention to the promises for the FUTURE.
25 “And now, LORD God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, 26 so that your name will be great forever.
28 O Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your words are TRUSTWORTHY, and you have PROMISED THESE GOOD THINGS TO YOUR SERVANT. 29 Now be pleased to BLESS the house of your servant, that it may continue FOREVER in your sight;
David’s caught a glimpse of the ONE STORY the Bible is telling. About God’s promise to BLESS his people. To bring them into his kingdom. To restore them to paradise.
And David’s caught enough of the FAITH and CONFIDENCE in God to ASK FOR THAT PLAN TO BE BROUGHT TO PASS.
And the rest of the Bible tells the story about how that HAPPENS.
We’ll see more of that NEXT week. But I don’t think it’s giving too much of the story away to say that there’s still a lot more to go before God REALLY brings his kingdom in so that it lasts FOREVER.
And we’ll see next week that David’s son, Solomon, for all his abilities was a rather SHAKY FOUNDATION to base your confidence in God’s kingdom on.
Because God was promising that the son of David who would, ULTIMATELY, bring in God’s kingdom FOREVER wouldn’t arrive for hundreds of years. Until Jesus arrived. The PERFECT king and Son. Who would NEVER need God’s fatherly hand of discipline like Solomon.
And who would conquer enemies of sin and death PERMANENTLY. COMPLETELY.
And while David’s attitude is a great model. One to imitate. For those of us who follow after Jesus. Who belong in the kingdom HE brings. We should be EVEN MORE blown away by God’s goodness to us. By the grace of the blessings we’ve received.
We may not have a palace and a throne like David. But our blessings are INFINITELY BETTER. Listen to how Paul is blown away by the goodness of God’s blessings to him in Christ. Eph 1 v3.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has BLESSED US IN THE HEAVENLY REALMS WITH EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING IN CHRIST.
Better than palaces or crowns. And he goes on to LIST all the things that come to us because of Christ.
V4. Chosen to be holy and blameless
V5 Predestined to be adopted as sons through Jesus
V7 Redemption through Jesus’ blood and forgiven sins
V8 Grace LAVISHED on us.
And finally we get the blessing of knowing God’s purposes for his world. His plan. The ONE STORY he’s working on as recorded in the Bible. There in v10. Can you SEE it?
(the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure which he purposed in Christ) 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment-TO BRING ALL THINGS IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH TOGETHER UNDER ONE HEAD, even Christ.
He PROMISED it to Abram. He HINTED at it in the King David’s kingdom. And he’s WORKING IT OUT NOW.
All things being brought together under the kingship of Jesus. All things being brought into the kingdom of God. That’s the plan – that EVERYTHING be God’s PEOPLE in God’s PLACE under God’s RULE. PARADISE RESTORED. Never to be lost.
We only see GLIMPSES of it at the moment. But God’s WORKING IT OUT.
And living in God’s kingdom NOW means WORKING ON THAT PLAN TOGETHER WITH GOD.
It means following his king, his Son Jesus. Listening, loving and obeying him. And BY that listening, loving and obeying helping to bring ALL THINGS under that kingship. Helping EVERYONE recognise Jesus as king.
And what that means PRACTICALLY is that we’re part of his HOUSE. Not the physical building – the temple – that David wanted to build for God.
But the SPIRITUAL building – the generation, the dynasty, the family line of all those descended from David. Sons of the greatest Son of David, Jesus.
Peter picks up the language of THE HOUSE. And uses it to describe Christians. Those following King Jesus. 1 Peter 2:5.
1 Peter 2:5-6
5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
So what are the spiritual sacrifices we offer if we belong to God’s spiritual house? Down in v9. (And here’s the response and application for all we’ve said today.)
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, THAT YOU MAY DECLARE THE PRAISES OF HIM WHO CALLED YOU OUT OF DARKNESS INTO HIS WONDERFUL LIGHT. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to ABSTAIN FROM SINFUL DESIRES, WHICH WAR AGAINST YOUR SOUL. 12 LIVE SUCH GOOD LIVES among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
That’s, practically, what it means to live in God’s kingdom today. To be part of the spiritual house God’s built around King David’s greatest descendent King Jesus.
Is that a vision YOU’VE seen? Is that a vision YOU’RE LIVING OUT?