As I read 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16 this morning, it strikes me that I think I know what David’s motivations for building the temple were. I needed to step back from the text a bit before I could really see that I don’t know why David wanted to build a temple. It could be that God was living in a tent and David desired to give back to God. I think that is possible but it is not the only possibility.
Pretend with me for a moment…
Imagine a moving to a small town. As you enter the town you see a beautiful building, obviously the best the town has to offer, you ask a local about it, and discover that it is the home of the leader of the church. As you wander through the streets you see a tent, well taken care of, another place of great value but still a tent. Your tour guide informs you that this is the House of God.
I am not sure what I would think. Maybe I would think that these people have their priorities a tad bit backwards or that the person that lives in the magnificent house is very important, maybe even more important than God even.
Maybe David wanted to build a house for God because he wanted the external things of the world to reflect the internal-value system of his people. God needed an amazing temple because he was an amazing God. My guess is that reason is at least partially true. God is an amazing God; it can look bad if he is living in a tent! An amazing God should have an amazing place to live.
But what about…
There is an inspiring Christmas story that seems to have gone viral. People are walking into Kmart and paying off stranger’s layaway tabs. It is an amazing story that gets me all teary eyed when I think about it. Can you imagine not having the money to buy your Christmas gifts but they are randomly paid for by a stranger? Wow, heartwarming. Until I read the comments. Sure most of them were inspirational but not all.
I am not a “cynic,” I think this is an amazing story but I see this commenter’s point. Since, Kmart is getting all of the attention with this story isn’t it possible that this is a marketing scheme? I think we ask this because we know that people are very capable of doing great things in the name of personal gain. We give so we can feel better, we write blogs so someone can say “wow, great blog”, or maybe we give to church so people are grateful for us…
David was human too, and maybe his motivations were not altruistic. I wonder if he wanted to build a temple because he wanted more power. As I read the text this morning I listened closer to God’s response…
”I took you from the pasture… [I] appointed you ruler…I have cut off all of your enemies…I will provide a place for my people…I will give you rest from your enemies” (2 Samuel 7:8-11)
And in the verses that the lectionary skips (2 Samuel 7:12-15)…
“I will raise up your offspring…I will establish his kingdom…I will be his father…I will punish him…my love will never be taken from him.”
“Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me;your throne will be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:16)
I really wish I knew God’s tone of voice here!
If David’s motivation is altruistic, he simply wants to give to God, I imagine God’s tone of voice would be soft, comforting…
”It’s ok, I know you love me. I take care of you; you don’t need to take care of me.”
If David’s motivation has to do with how bad it looks to live in a great house while he left God in a tent…Maybe God’s tone was reassuring…
”I have protected my people from their enemies, they know I am God. No worries.”
But I can see it another way too. If David’s desire for a temple has to do with personal power, God’s answer is clear and concise, almost a lecture…
”I am the one that has done all of these things, I have big plans for the future, don’t start thinking you can gain more power from anywhere but me.”
I don’t know David’s motivations but I know God did. I believe that God answered to the motivations of David’s heart not just his words.
Sometimes I look through the lectionary text and wonder if the passages someone choose the passages randomly…”we haven’t had this one for a while, lets add it!” They just don’t seem to have anything in common. I have to admit, I miss things (all the time) and maybe I rarely read the lectionary text this close or maybe they don’t have much in common with the other texts for the week. Nevertheless, this week there are themes in the four texts…
I choose you…
God takes David “from the pasture, from following the sheep” (2 Samuel 7:8), Mary is “the lowliness of his servant” (Luke 1:48). If we were to look for these people today, we would not find them in the White House or in the boardroom. We might find David working hard on the family farm. Not the father that runs the farm, not the mother that makes sure the family runs smooth, but the child working and playing along his siblings, working so that there would be food on the table.
Have you seen Mary lately? She is the child from the “wrong side of the tracks,” the small town that everyone forgot about. Do you drive by cheap, run down motels on your way to work? Do you think maybe there is a young unwed mother that has gone through hell? Maybe Mary knew she was carrying a very special baby but to others she was unwed and pregnant. I wonder what her parents thought. Did they make her leave the only home she had ever known because of how she disgraced her family?
Today we know that how important David and Mary are in the history of the world. It makes it hard to return to the time and place of the story and remember that the people around them saw them the same way that we see outsiders, not good enough, not loved or the wrong kind of people. But God choose Mary, God choose David.
“Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me” (2 Samuel 7.16). “According to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Luke 1.55). “I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations” (Psalm 89.4). “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:33).
These texts are very clear on one thing “forever.” From generation to generation, we have a King, a Son of God that “to whom be the glory forever!” (Romans 16:27). These texts also lack one thing…”if.” Jesus will not reign “if” I have the right belief system, the right way of thinking, the right way of doing, there is no “if” even if I don’t know what the Kingdom of God looks like. There is no “if”…Jesus is King whether I know it, believe it or walk it…forever, from generation to generation, there is no end to his Kingdom. No “ifs,” “ands,” or “buts” about it.
It is Advent; Christmas is coming (in December EVERY YEAR!). A joyous time for all. Right? Not so fast, most of us need strength to face the difficulties of this season. These texts offer that promise…”I will give you rest from all of your enemies” (2 Samuel 7:11). “He has shown strength with his arm” (Luke 1:15). “My hand shall always remain with him; my arm also shall strengthen him” (Psalms 89.21). “Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ” (Romans 16:25). “The power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35).
I may not know much…but I know that Mary and David needed strength. How do you tell your father that you are leaving the family farm to become the king? How do you go to your parents and tell them that you are pregnant? To have a messenger from God tell you that you are pregnant is one thing, to relay that information to your future spouse and parents is another. To allow others into the pain and fear that we face is facing down the gates of hell and choosing to walk through them. Hoping that what is on the other side is more like heaven. A place that we are not alone with our fear and pain anymore, a place that we know we are worthy of love, even with the mistakes of our past and failures of our present. We face many of the most difficult and tragic times in our lives feeling alone. To walk through those gates to find that we are worthy of love and no longer alone, this takes the strength of God to do.
The worst pain in the world is the pain suffered alone. Do not be alone: share.
A few weeks ago I completed my first quarter at Iliff School of Theology. One of the first things I studied was the old testament, “Hebrew Bible I.” Which explains the reason for picking this text this week. I’ve already studied this text and have an idea of its history…yes, I’m taking the easy way out! Going with what I already know…
What I do know is that 2 Samuel 7 is part of the Deuteronomistic History, which is the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings. These books are “history books,” maybe not exactly like we would find in history class but they do tell the history of Israel and Judah from the time the Hebrews entered Canaan until the Babylonian exile in 586 BCE. These books even have citations like a good history book should (The Chronicles of the Kings of Judah, The Chronicles of the Kings of Israel, The Chronicles of Solomon, The Chronicles of the Kings of Media and Persia…etc.)
2 Samuel 7
King David moved the capital and the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 6. In 2 Samuel 7, David has moved into his new kingly palace and tells Nathan, his prophet, that he would like to build a house for God. Nathan, saying “go for it,” but God does not approve, so they put the building of the temple on hold for later generations. God establishes the Davidic dynasty, the ancestors of David will always be king over Israel.
It is interesting that David wants to build a temple for God but God very clearly says “no.” God never asked for a temple, he didn’t want one (2 Samuel 5-7).
Did you know that Homer Simpson bought Marge a bowling ball for her birthday one year? With his name on it, of course. The gift was not for her, not really. I am sure I’ve done it, bought a gift for someone, a gift that I fell in love with…but failed to actually consider if the receiver would love it. I know I’ve received gifts that the giver loved but…ya, I know how Marge felt! Maybe this “gift” of a house for God was the same. God said no, God didn’t need a temple, never asked for one…God was not interested.
If we only had verses 5-7, we would know that God did not want a “house.” But that is not all we have, we also have verse 13…”[your child] will build a house to honor me.” Did God not want a temple or did he not want David to build it for him? It is a little confusing. The different voices from different times comes through this text. One voice is clear, “no temple”. Another voice, later in the tradition probably, comes through and adds “yet.” “No temple, yet.”
Even in these few short versus, the depth and complexity of this text shines through. A temple was not just voted upon, built and accepted by all people through all Israel’s history. There is a wrestling here in the text, questions that people are asking.
- Where will God live now that we have settled in our new land?
- Who has access to God (Royal Ideology)?
- How do we, as the Hebrew people, live in our land as a United Kingdom?
Add to that…the authors/editors that pulled these books together into their final form
What do you write now that you are in exile…away from your temple and land? How does a historian write about their history, and promises made, while living in the present, with seemingly broken promises?
Add to that…the fact that this is a couple of thousand years later!
How do we read this text today? Knowing that a temple was built, destroyed, rebuilt, and destroyed again? Hearing the stories of Jesus, from the line of David, the anointed one, do we hear “your throne will be established forever” and hear, not the story of an ancient people, but instead our story? The story of Christ?
We wrestle with the things of God all the time. Is it really a surprise that thousands of years ago, they wrestled too? For me, it makes these people more real, it makes God more real.
I’ve been sitting around for a couple of years waiting for some amazing blog idea to hit me. One that makes it very easy to blog, with very little effort or thought put into it. Ya, I live on a different planet sometimes. I’m trying to convince myself that the only way to begin a blog is to well…start blogging. So, here we go, journeying through the beginning steps, the failures, the successes, and one day…my first reader. (If, of course I ever actually make this thing public!)
I don’t have anything to write about but one day I will…one day, I will sit down with the Bible, look at the lectionary text, pick a passage for the week…pray, listen, learn, and eventually write that amazing sermon, one day I will do all of those things.
Well, I am not big on “one day, when all the stars line up and I have arrived.” So, today I start. I will look at the text, study it, and then blog about it. That simple. I’m not going to preach…yet. Just write about what I find. It will be interesting to look back one day to see where this journey takes me.
This weeks lectionary text from The Revised Common Lectionary:
- First reading
- 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
- Luke 1:46b-55 or Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26
- Second reading
- Romans 16:25-27
- Luke 1:26-38
Today, I will read the texts and pick one to study for the week…here I go!