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  • Writer's picturePaul Cottington

God's Bricks

We could easily pass over this chapter and miss its significance. It is about David, but it is relevant to all who believe that David’s God is their God. Through the prophet Nathan, the Lord gives his longest divine speech recorded since the days of Moses. It is significant. We should be listening. It has some wonderful lessons for our lives. In recent weeks we have considered a period of David’s life as recorded in 2 Samuel 6. We noticed David’s joy in the Lord, as the ark of God was restored to its rightful place at the heart of Israel. We considered how this joy was judged by others, particularly David’s wife, Michal. She judged David unfavourably and insulted him. David responded with a beautiful statement. He was willing to be insulted and to be humbled because of his relationship with his God. As we move into this following chapter, 2 Samuel 7, we have this continued theme of relationship. Clearly, the Lord was David’s God. David belonged to the Lord. This was not a distant relationship. It affected David’s daily life. Because of David’s genuine connection with the Lord, he desires to do something for him. David wants to build a house for the ark of the covenant. He wants to build a house for God. Houses, and particularly households, have been more prominent in our thinking this year. There have been restrictions to our lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been limited to how close we can get to people. We’ve had to maintain a social distance, except with people from our own household. Some of those living in isolation have been given the opportunity to join themselves to the house of others, to become part of a household ‘bubble’. Some will have been faced with a choice. They will have had to ask themselves the question of which household should they join with. For some, that question will have been difficult, requiring the weighing up of which relationships are the most important.

But this question of relationship, and the question of whose house I want my life linked to, wasn’t invented in the spring of 2020. I know this, because 2 Samuel 7 was definitely in my bible when I was a young boy! This chapter is about houses. David has a desire. His desire is to build a house for his God. David has made a judgement on two sets of circumstances. The first is his own situation. In the reply of the ‘Lord Almighty’ (v.8) this is mentioned. The Lord says, ‘I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel.’ David had been taken from the lowly position of shepherd and been made King of Israel. David was well aware of this. He had been accustomed to spending his nights under the stars, tending to the needs of animals. Now he slept in a palace, made of the finest materials, surrounded by servants who took care of his needs. David says, ‘Here I am, living in a house of cedar’. His life had been blessed, there is no question of that. But David saw a disparity and it unsettled him. ‘The ark of God remains in a tent’, he says to Nathan. He recognises that his life had changed. The Lord has blessed him and he had blessed his people, Israel. But what had they done for the Lord. David wants to do something for the Lord. He intends to build a house for the ark of the covenant law, which will be a house for his covenant keeping God. In verse 3, Nathan responds with, ‘Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.’ I tend to read this as Nathan simply offering his own opinion. Others judge Nathan more harshly. But Nathan was a faithful and courageous man (see 2 Samuel 12 and 1 Kings 1), much more so than me. There is definitely truth in Nathan’s observation. The Lord was evidently ‘with’ David. Is Nathan simply saying something along the lines of, ‘You can see that the Lord is with you? If you have a desire to do something for him then you should do it.’ Whatever, the correct understanding of Nathan’s statement is, there is no mistaking the actions of the Lord. He is truly gracious as he interrupts these events with his own word to Nathan. Is the Lord displeased with David’s plan? I think not. David’s motivation is not criticised. But David’s plan, and the details of that plan, need some adjusting. They do not quite fit the Lord’s plan. The Lord has several things to address. He knows that there are important concepts for David to consider. In the parallel account in 1 Chronicles 17 the Lord says, ‘you are not the one to build me a house to dwell in’. There is a reason for this, which is explained further in 1 Chronicles 22: 8. The Lord told David, ‘You have shed much blood

and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight.’

The battles that David had been engaged in were righteous battles. He had often fought as instructed by the Lord himself. He had grappled with the enemies of God’s people, Israel. He had not been wrong to do this. But, human life is of tremendous value to the Creator. In the mind of the Lord, David was excluded from the building of this house, because David was a warrior. The Lord told David that he would have a son, called Solomon, ‘who will be a man of peace and rest.... He is the one who will build a house for my Name’ (1 Chronicles 22 9 & 10). So, David was excluded from this role of temple builder. There is a huge lesson for us here in the way that David consequently acts. The house building is not to be his responsibility but that doesn’t exclude him from desiring to see that work prosper. That doesn’t stop him from making every effort to see the work completed. 1 Chronicles 22 5 tells us this, ‘David said, “My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the Lord should be of great magnificence and fame and splendour in the sight of all the nations. Therefore I will make preparations for it.” So David made extensive preparations before his death’. The previous verses reveal the extent of David’s labour. He appointed stonecutters to dress the stone. He supplied iron for the fittings. He gave ‘more bronze than could be weighed’. He ‘provided more cedar logs than could be counted’. What a lesson for the Lord’s people! We may have plans to work for the Lord in his church. We should have plans to work for the Lord in his church! But what if there is a role in church life that we feel suited to, but it isn’t available to us. What if the circumstances of providence mean that we cannot do exactly what we would desire to do? Do we then assume that we have no responsibility to see that work prosper; that the responsibility belongs to others? Or should we do what David did and do everything to support the labouring of others? David could have taken a different view. Solomon was appointed by the Lord to carry out this work. The Lord had promised that it would happen. Couldn’t David have just let things be? Thankfully, he didn’t. He wisely appraised the situation. He was aware of Solomon’s youthful inexperience. He knew that he would need support in getting up to speed with this great task. So David did what he could. In his wisdom and kindness, the Lord has left us this example of David for us to learn from, so that we can get up to speed. But, with regard to our working for the Lord, there is an even greater lesson here in this passage. David needed to learn it and we need to learn it.

The Lord tells David what he has done, both for David and for Israel. Then, the awesome voice of the Almighty rings out with these words, ‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you’. Yes, David, you have desired to build a house for the Lord. But the Lord is actually going to build a house for you. The house that Solomon eventually built for the Lord was magnificent. But, the house that the Lord promises to build is beyond compare. David wants to do something for the Lord. But what the Lord wants to do for David is greater. We need to be mindful of this in our church life. Whatever plans we have for the Lord’s work, they will only bear fruit as the Lord works for us. However great our plans for the Lord’s work may be, we can rest assured that the Lord’s plans for us are better. The Lord proceeds to make a number of promises to David. They are promises to David and to his ‘offspring’ (v.12). Some of these promises are to be fulfilled in the life of David’s son, Solomon. Solomon did ‘build a house’ for ‘the name’ of the Lord. The Lord did ‘establish his kingdom’. But, can we really say that all these promises are true, if we limit them to Solomon? Verse 16 says, ‘Your house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.’ Who is on the throne in the land of Israel today? No-one. Israel is a parliamentary republic. It has no monarch. These promises do have a limited relevance to Solomon. But, in the life of another of David’s descendants, they are unlimited in their scope. Matthew 12 is very helpful in this regard. Matthew quotes from Isaiah’s prophecy in a section from verse 15, titled in the NIV, ‘God’s chosen servant’. Matthew wants us to realise that Jesus is the person who was promised in the Old Testaments writings. Actually, the Jews were aware that this ‘Messiah’ would be a descendant of David. Verse 22 tells us of a man who could not see and could not speak, who Jesus miraculously healed. The people who saw it ‘were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”’ The Pharisees reacted differently. They belonged to a Jewish group that seemed very religious. But, they despised Jesus. Jesus knows why and he tells them. He had just healed a man of natural blindness and he goes on to tell the Pharisees that the reason they didn’t perceive who he was, was because they remained blind. Spiritually, they just could not see and they could not hear. He says, in effect, ‘you are not looking, you are not listening’. Jesus then mentions Solomon, and the account of the Queen of Sheba, who travelled a great distance because she wanted to listen. She had heard of Solomon’s wisdom and wanted to experience it for herself. And Jesus says, about himself, ‘a greater than Solomon is here’ (Matthew 12: 42 (AV)). When we read 2 Samuel 7, and wish to know who it is really talking about, a greater than Solomon is here. Like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; like Judah, David receives a promise that the promised Messiah will be in his line of descendants (see Acts 2: 30). This descendant will have a throne and a kingdom that will be established for ever. The Lord goes on to say (v.14), ‘I will be his father, and he shall be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands’. What does this mean? It may be easy for us to see how the words, ‘floggings inflicted by human hands’ relate to the crucifixion of Jesus. But, did he really do ‘wrong’. Surely, Jesus was without sin? In Luke 23 41, we have the words recorded of a man brought to living faith in Jesus on the last day of his life. We sometimes refer to him as ‘the dying thief’. He looked at Jesus and said of him, ‘this man has done nothing wrong’. He did nothing wrong, but God made him to be sin. 2 Corinthians 5: 21 instructs us in this way, ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us’. In his words to King David, the Lord (v.15) goes on in his wonderful declaration of intent, ‘But my love will never be taken away from him’. God the Father loves God the Son, and the Spirit of God confirms it. In Matthew 3: 16-17, when Jesus was baptised by John, we read these words, ‘at that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ And through what Jesus did on that cross, the Lord is pleased with, and loves, all the ‘us’ that 2 Corinthians 5 mentions. ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’ Going back to David – What does this promise mean, ‘He will build a house for my Name’, says the Lord? Hebrews 3 can help us. The writer to those Hebrew believers didn’t encourage them to look to David, or Solomon, or Moses, or any other Old Testament prophet. He said this, ‘fix your thoughts on Jesus’ (v.1). Why? Because, ‘Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house’ (v.6). What house? Well, in the introduction to chapter 3 he calls the recipients of his letter, ‘holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling’. These were believers in Jesus. And in verse 6, he continues with this glorious statement, ‘Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house...’ Yes, this house that the Lord is building, for the ‘Name’ of God, is the church of Jesus Christ. It’s a building made up of people. Peter continues with this theme in his first letter. How do we start constructing a house? Well, it has to have a foundation stone, or corner stone, to bear the weight of what is to be built on it. Otherwise, the building will always be in danger of collapse. Peter quotes from the Old Testament prophecies to show that Jesus is ‘a chosen and precious cornerstone’ (1 Peter 2: 6). Peter says that if we build our trust upon this cornerstone, then our hope will never collapse. Christ is the sure and certain foundation for all who trust in him. And Peter says this (v.4-5), ‘As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him – 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, as we read 2 Samuel 7, let us delight in the wonderful, gracious words that the Lord speaks to his servant David. Even if these words were meant only for David, they would be so worthwhile to consider. But they aren’t restricted to David. They are meant for every stone, every brick, every person, which becomes part of the building of Christ’s church. We might wonder what we can ever do for the Lord. ‘What will I do? Spiritually, I’m thick as a brick’. Yes, but do you really differ greatly to one laid to the left of you, or the one laid to the right? I think not. But the truth is – if you weren’t in that building, the building would not be complete! So, to finish. Several times in this chapter we have these two words – ‘for ever’. And how did this ‘for ever’ begin. Well, the earthly part of the story began when God became one of us. A refugee mother had travelled from Nazareth, to give birth to a child, in a stable in Bethlehem. It will soon be Christmas. Let’s set off now. Let’s make our way to Nazareth, a few months prior to these events, to hear the words of the angel Gabriel, to this lady, named Mary, as he spoke about her son, who was to be named Jesus. ‘He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end’ (Luke 1: 32-33).



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