Advent 4 – 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
It is one of the great mysteries of the Scriptures as to why God refuses to allow David to build the temple. To add confusion to the mystery is that in verses 6-7, God seems perfectly content with dwelling in a tent, but in 1 Kings 5, Solomon has the same idea to build a temple, and God seems to have no qualms about it, and even embraces the idea.
You could point to any number of reasons, most notably that David’s reign as king was marked by warfare and squashing the enemies of God’s people, whereas Solomon’s reign was marked by living off the riches that David had secured.
That makes this an interesting text for Advent 4; the desired emphasis by those who selected this reading is to be on the concluding verses and the Lord establishing the House of David forever, and the ultimate fulfillment of that promise in the coming of both David’s son and David’s Lord in Jesus in our Gospel text.
But this morning, let us linger on a parallel between our Old Testament text and today if we may, focusing not so much on why God rejected David, but rather on what happens next.
Picture for a moment King David walking around on the roof of his house, and looking off in one direction and seeing the tent with the Ark of the Covenant; he compares his own dwelling place with that of the Lord God, and in his guilt, desires to build a temple to house the Ark of the Covenant, and thereby house God. But after being rejected, he turns around and looks off in another direction and sees Bathsheba bathing, and knows that she will not reject him.
What follows is David finding himself very far from the Lord’s favor.
But that is not where you find yourself today, is it?
The cat is probably out of the bag by now that while this morning is Advent 4, tonight is Christmas Eve. And tonight and tomorrow, there will be a great celebration as we mark the coming of the Christ child into the world. It is somewhat remarkable that in a world that is becoming more and more secular with each passing day, the average radio station still plays the old familiar Christmas hymns mixed in with all the other modern popular Christmas songs; and that one of the most popular Christmas movies on television features Linus reciting a portion of St. Luke 2.
Yes, much like David, this is the popular time of year to look outside and see the holy family huddled around the manger, with the newborn Jesus wrapped in nothing by some loose fitting cloths, and to invite them into your home.
Now is the time of year to declare that you would have opened the doors of your home to Mary and Joseph; given them whatever they needed to make the birth of the Savior a little more comfortable and pleasant. Now is the time of year to rush to the nearest church and declare that this child in the manger is most welcome in your humble dwelling.
Is it guilt that drives you to welcome this child into your home? Guilt built up after another year of forsaking the Lord and His Word and His gifts? Guilt that you could not save yourself? Guilt that you live far better off than most of God’s people in the world?
And so as you look out the window on this Christmas Eve, and you see your parents or grandparents loading up the car to come to church, your guilt drives you to agree to go along; because after all, it is Christmas. Or your guilt drives you to announce to your company from afar that it is Christmas, and therefore you will say grace before the meal, as opposed to everyone digging right in. Or your guilt drives you to set up a nativity scene in the midst of all the other decorations.
Guilt is a powerful thing, and throughout history, the Church on earth has greatly benefited from the guilt of others consciences; in fact many churches are adorned with wonderful gifts of art and furnishings given by those who were guilt ridden.
No doubt, David would have built a spectacular temple for the Lord; it would have been adorned with gold and silver and all the precious jewels one would expect to find.
And yet God says no. He rejects David’s offer.
Instead God tells David what He does want; not a temple, but He wants David’s heart.
And this Christmas as you invite the holy family into your home; grant them a place of prominence at your Christmas feast; as you boldly proclaim that Jesus can have any gift He so desires in His stocking, Jesus tells you the same thing: keep your gifts, I just want your heart.
Certainly not a familiar response. In fact, we are very used to gift buying and giving alleviating a whole host of problems; there are after all not many transgressions a new car, or a new video game, or a new dress, or some piece of jewelry will not smooth over.
But the gift that the Lord wants is not a temple or the hottest new gadget, but your heart; and you suddenly find that this is a very difficult gift to give.
For one other possibility for why David was not allowed to build the temple is that after having his architectural rending rejected, he did have his affair with Bathsheeba; he did arrange for Uriah to be killed in battle; he did completely reject God for a period of time. And while Solomon was hardly a model citizen of faithfulness to the Lord, at least his crimes came after he built the temple.
An all too familiar tale indeed. For all those who welcome the holy family into their homes this week, how many will be quick to escort them to the door when the decorations are put away? How many will soon find that meal time prayer, daily devotions, and regular worship attendance are too time consuming to bother with when no one is watching? How many will take that new Bible, or Catechism, or hymnal, and relegate them to places far out of reach once the fresh new smell has worn off? How many, like David, will turn their hearts away from the Lord when the next shiny item glistens in their eye?
It is a steep fall to go from desiring to build the Lord a magnificent temple, to forsaking Him for the pleasure of another; and yet, the thud from that crash will reverberate for miles in about twelve days from now as many homes that were once bright and welcoming, turn dark and hostile once more.
And yet that is in fact the miracle of Christmas, about darkness falling upon a home where Jesus was no longer welcomed. It is heaven. For at the time appointed, Jesus left heaven, left the splendor and the glories and the power and the majesty, and came to earth. He came to a simple virgin and her carpenter fiancé. He came to live amongst those who had for so long rejected the Lord, and who would once again reject Him sending Him to suffer and die.
The story of Christmas is the story of the Christ child coming to earth to be rejected by men, rejected by God, so that man may no longer be rejected by God, but rather so that the hearts of man might be turned, their sins forgiven, and the gates of heaven opened to you.
David ends up rejecting God, and yet, David is forgiven; not because of some great gift He gave, but because of the gift that God gave to Him in Christ Jesus, who would be both David’s son and David’s Lord.
And it is this Jesus, this descendent of David, this Son of God, who now also redeems you, forgives you for all of your sins of turning away from God, and welcomes you back into His loving embrace.
David wants to build God a house, and yet God rejects his offer, just as He rejects your offer to come into your home this Christmas and celebrate with you. Instead, what God offers to David and to you is the gift of a Savior, one who will redeem you from the perils and the guilt that you find yourself in, and welcome you into His house, the glories and the splendors of heaven.