How People Change: Clinging to Promises

Sermon by David Felker on September 9, 2018

2 Samuel 7:1-17

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Please turn with me in your Bible to 2 Samuel chapter 7; 2 Samuel chapter 7. The passage begins on page 259 in the church Bible in front of you. We started a new mini-series last week. You see the title in your bulletin – “How People Change.” We’re looking through the lens of the David story, through the lens of the David narrative, at a few of the things God uses to change David and a few of the things God uses to change us, His people. And before we jump in and read, something to consider.


A number of years ago I heard a preacher tell the story of a seminary student and this student was from Africa. And the student had these three deep cuts on each side of his face, on each cheek, and they were tribal markings. And the story goes that in his tribe, a man when he reached a certain age, had to go out, to earn the right to marry his wife, he had to go out with the men of his tribe on a hunt and kill a wild hippopotamus with just a spear. Now let's just stop and think about that for a second. When I think of a hippo, I think of just kind of a large, lazy animal behind the cage at the zoo, but the hippopotamus, the internet tells us, is recognizable for its barrel-shaped torso, enormous mouth and teeth, hairless body, stubby legs, and tremendous size. It's similar in size to the white rhinoceros. Only elephants are consistently heavier. But despite its stocky shape, it can easily outrun a human and has been clocked at thirty miles per hour, which is faster – this is amazing – faster than an Olympic sprinter. The hippopotamus is among the most dangerous and aggressive of all animals and is regarded to be the most dangerous of all animals on the continent of Africa. So this man, to earn the right to marry his wife, has to go in to kill a wild hippo with just a spear.


And I heard this sermon – it was over ten years ago – and I still remember that the minister joked and he said, “Do you think that his wife is fairly secure about his commitment level? I mean, do you think she ever gets anxious about whether or not her husband is ‘all in’? Like, I think that she’s good!” But I think that if we’re more honest, I’m sure that there are days, where she wonders, “Does he really love me?” I’m sure that there are days. Even as he is bearing these cuts on his face that she sees, I’m sure there are days, because that’s what we’re like; that’s how our hearts work. I’m sure there are days where she wonders, “Does he love me?”


Tonight we are continuing in the David narrative. We are looking at these promises, these grand and glorious promises that God gives to David, then He calls him to believe them, to cling to them. And this is such a central part of our story as well, as God’s people, as those beloved by God, that He gives us promises; He gives us promises and He calls us to cling to them. And so for us, who often wonder, “Can I change? Can I be different? I’ve got to change,” for people like us with hearts that are complex and complicated, who are prone to wander, who are prone to leave the God that we love, we have every reason to be sure about God’s commitment level, but we are prone to say, “Does He really love me? God so loved the word, I get that, but does He love me?” And what does it look like for David, and then what does it look like for us to believe His promises, to cling to them, and to be changed? And so 2 Samuel chapter 7. Before we jump in and read, let me pray for us. Let’s pray together.


Father in heaven, You aren’t hidden and You aren’t silent, but You delight to make Yourself known, and so help us tonight to see You, our King, and that we would see lovely things about You that we might joyfully follow after You. We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.


2 Samuel chapter 7 beginning in verse 1. This is God’s Word:


“Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, ‘See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.’ And Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.’

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, ‘Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’’ Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’’ In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.”


Amen. This is God’s Word.


I talk about my upbringing from time to time. When I was a child, we lived in a house in Starkville, Mississippi in a neighborhood off South Montgomery called Sherwood Forest. And we moved. We left Starkville when I was in the first grade; that was 1990. But in 2002, my parents moved back to Starkville from Fayetteville, Arkansas and they moved into that same neighborhood, Sherwood Forest, and they moved just around the corner from my childhood home. And so now when I visit my parents, I will often see that home that I grew up in. And when I see that home – I think we've all had this experience – just a flood of memories come back. When I see that home, it was the home where my dad was a coach, he was a football coach, and we often had his players at our dinner table. It was a home where my best friend, my little brother, Stephen, came home as a baby. He was born in Starkville in 1989 and we brought him to that house. And I think that you have those places in your life where that's true. There's something about locations. There's something about homes. There's something about places and certain geographies. Some of the best memories I ever experienced were within those walls in that home. And in a very real sense, I can walk past that home now as a thirty-five-year-old, I can walk past that home and I can remember, I can remember the memories. There were places in that home where character was forged and where the Lord gave us joy, where tears were shed. Life really changed in that home.


Those who love country music will remember the song, “The Home that Built Me,” where Miranda Lambert recounts how she walked through the home of her upbringing and how that home built her. I think some of us feel that when we go back to those places – that there are things in our memories that are deep that we can’t get to in any other way, we can’t navigate through unless we’re in those places. Our homes have an impact on us and it’s powerful. But the homes that God builds, the houses that He builds, are the most powerful houses that there are. And that’s what we’re going to talk about tonight.


In 2 Samuel chapter 7, this is a passage that’s saturated in covenant language. This is the Davidic covenant, but it’s a passage about what God is building. This is one of the most important passages, one of the most important stories in the David narrative. It may not be as famous or familiar to you as 1 Samuel chapter 16 where David is anointed as king. “Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.” It may not be as famous or familiar to you as the Goliath story when David defeats Goliath. “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine? The battle is the Lord’s.” It may not be as famous or familiar to you as the Bathsheba story, when David sent and inquired about the woman and said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” And it may not be as famous or familiar as the Mephibosheth story, that “he shall eat always at the king’s table.” And it may not be as famous or familiar to you as the Absalom story. “O Absalom, my son, my son.”


But this is maybe the most important story in the David narrative. It may not be as famous or familiar to you, but it is the hub chapter in the David story. This house, this dynasty that God is building, it gets you from the Old Testament to the New Testament and it’s a story that gets deep inside of you. It’s a story that gets at some of the deepest longings that you have. And so that’s what we’re going to talk about tonight. We’re going to consider these promises that God gives to David in this passage. He promises to be near. He promises to be near. And He promises to never leave. He promises to never leave. To be near and to never leave.


God Promises to Be Near

And so first, God promises to be near. Last week, if you were with us, we were in 1 Samuel chapters 18 to 20 looking at the friendship of David and Jonathan. And we said that the dominant note in those chapters was trouble. Saul was consumed with envy; Saul became murderously envious of David and he tried to kill him at least six times in those chapters. But things have changed. In our story tonight, we see David, he’s at the top of his game; he’s at the height of his success. If you’ll look in verse 1, you see the language of victory. The Lord gave him rest. The Lord gave David rest from all his enemies. So he’s won military battles. He’s put the Philistines at bay. The kingdom, the kingdom of Saul and the kingdom of David has now been united. He’s established Jerusalem as the capital city, as the city of David. He’s brought the ark, the ark of the covenant, into the city. And so everything is on the up and up in David’s kingdom. He’s no longer in trouble in Saul’s house, in his courts. He’s no longer spending years running from Saul in the wilderness. He’s now, we see in our text, he’s living in this house of cedar.


To Be With His People

And right at the beginning of our passage, he’s looking at his kingdom being built. He’s got Nathan the prophet, his pastor, at his elbow, and he sees over to the side of him this tent, the ark of the covenant. Where God dwells is in this tent and he says – you see this in verse 2 – he says to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” And Nathan, I think like many pastors would respond if a wealthy church member wanted to fund a building campaign, Nathan says, “Go and do all that’s in your heart. The Lord is with you.” And the text doesn’t tell us all that was wrong with David’s dreams or desires. It doesn’t say anything about David’s motives. We do know this. In ancient times it was common for a king who began to develop some military success that he would build his god a temple to pay homage, to show respect, and to ensure future success, future victories. Is that present in David’s request? That may be possible but it’s not in the text. We don’t know. But either way, what God says to David in verses 4 and 5, “David, would you build Me, would you build Me a house to dwell in?” – notice what He says at the end of verse 6. He says, “I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling.” In other words, “I don’t want to be in a temple. I didn’t ask for a temple. Because at the heart of who I am, I want to be with My people.”


One of the highlights of the Lord’s ministry, one of the highlights of His Lordship over His people has always been His nearness. Maybe it was a burning bush. Maybe it was a pillar of fire. Maybe it was the tabernacle. “But what has always been a hallmark of My Lordship to My people is going to continue forever. I am the God who is going to be near.” As one minister said, “In God’s economy, geography is very important. He is the God who is near.” This is the kind of King that David has, this is the kind of King that David is dealing with, and this is the kind of King, the kind of God that we have. Emmanuel – God with us. “I’m not some distant God, but where My people are, that’s where I am. What My people experience, that’s what I experience. When My people suffer, I suffer.”  And we see this later in Jesus. “The Word became flesh and He dwelt among us.” “Foxes have holes, birds have nests, but the Son of Man doesn’t have a place, He doesn’t have a place to lay His head.” God with us.


Why does that matter? We have two kids, ages four and two, a son and a daughter. And they hurt themselves all the time. They hurt themselves all the time. One of them swallowed a penny a couple of weeks ago. A nice little emergency room visit; a nice little emergency room bill. One of them gets run over by our dog multiple times a day. Our children hurt themselves all the time. And the hot tears come. And what do they do? They run to mommy, they run to daddy, and we kiss it and we hold them and very quickly it gets better. I don’t know if you can remember when you were a child and maybe a time when you got hurt and your parents weren’t around. Maybe you were at school, maybe you were at a friend’s house, and you got hurt. And it took longer to feel better. It took longer to feel better. Just them being there with you is healing.


Sensing His Nearness

Have you remembered this good news lately? That the Lord delights to be near His people. My question for you tonight is “Do you sense the nearness of the Lord? Do you sense the nearness of the Lord?” God promises to be near. If your family is hanging by a thread, that He’s not far off. He’s not far off as you struggle with a disease that’s killing you or killing someone you love. He’s not distant from that. This means that infertility, this means that another failed addiction recovery plan, this means that another funeral, this means that more blood work, that you may feel and you will feel at times abandoned to yourself. But God is with you. He’s near. God is also with you – I think this is important – as you fight the irreconcilable war, as the confession calls it, the irreconcilable war that takes place inside of you. Do you sense tonight the marks of the old man? The disease marks that remain? The old patterns that govern you? Why do we default back to who we once were? What hope do we really have for change, for real change? Not just behavior modification – what hope do we have for change? I think this is hope for us – that God is with us. The Bible says that for God’s people, that you are in Christ, that Christ represents you, that you get His record, that you’re rooted in Him. But it also says that Christ is in you. “I am with you always. I am with you always. I will not leave you as an orphan. I will make a home with you. Christ in you, the hope of glory,” which is a guarantee that you can and will change. And so God promises to be near.


God Promises to Never Leave

But second, He promises to never leave. So He promises to be near, but second, He promises to never leave. And I think there are a couple of things for us here. It's clear that David wants to build God a house. We see that God, He says at the end of verse 11, "The Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house." And of course, there's a play on the word "house." The kind of house that God wants to build David is, of course, a dynasty that will survive generation after generation after generation. And so God calls David to remember. But then look at this in verses 8 to 11. He reviews His past grace and He tells him, "I've already been building this house." And so look at the text. "David, do you remember when I chose you out of the fields? I'm building the house." Look in verses 9 and 10. "David, do you remember how you went into battle and you won those victories? I'm building the house. And David, do you remember those promises that I made to Abraham? Those promises? And you're in that promised land because I promised it centuries before. I'm building the house."


God’s Forever Promise

Do you see what God is doing? He’s recounting verse by verse by verse to David that, “David, the story of your life is not that you have done great things for God, but David, the story of your life is that you are one for whom God has done great things. You are one for whom I have done great things.” And so the focus is on what God has done and what God will do. “Here is how I am building this house.” We call this passage the Davidic covenant. You’ll notice that the word “covenant” is not in this reading; it’s not in our story. But we have a little commentary on our passage in Psalm 89 which is a psalm that reflects on this passage, 2 Samuel 7. It’s a psalm that four times says the covenant, the covenant that God enters into with David here. And so this is the covenant that immediately precedes the new covenant in Jesus. And so here God is revealing just a little bit more. God is revealing a little more concerning His promises. The promise that He made in Genesis chapter 3 that the seed of the woman would crush the head of Satan. But where, as you’re in the story, where does that seed come from? Is this promise going to fail? Where would that seed come from? We’re being told here from the house of David.



And then notice in verse 13 and verse 16, there's one word that we bump into three different times. This house, this dynasty, will last "forever, forever, forever." As Ralph Davis has so helpfully said, he says, "These promises are indefectible. They cannot fail." He stares down every obstacle. And Ralph Davis points to three dimensions to this particular promise. That David, your throne shall be established forever and nothing, not death first, not death – so look at verse 12. Death will not annul it. "When your days are filled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring. So, David, you will die, your bones, when your bones are laid in the grave, the promise continues."



So nothing, not death, and second, not sin. Look at verses 14 and 15. Sin can’t destroy it. Sin caused Saul to lose the throne. Look at what He says though, verses 14 and 15. “I will be to him,” He’s speaking of David’s son, Solomon, “I will be to him a Father. And when he sins,” not, “he will lose the promise,” not, “I will throw him out,” but, “when he sins I will discipline him, but My love will never depart from him.” So nothing – not death, not sin, sin can’t destroy it.



And third, not even time. Time cannot stop this kingdom. Time will not exhaust it. As Ralph Davis said, "There's no expiration date. It will not expire." And I'm sure that when David heard this promise he thought, "This is the best! This means that I'm going to be king and my son's going to be king and then his son's going to be king and there's going to be an unbroken line forever!" If you read the Old Testament, is that what happened? The kingdom kind of exploded into a million pieces. The Israelites went into captivity under the regime of the Persians, the Syrians, the Romans. So the line of David seems to fizzle out. So did God not come through on this promise?  I want you to turn with me to a couple of passages in the New Testament. Matthew chapter 1, Luke chapter 1, and Revelation chapter 22. So you see where this promise will go. In Psalm 2, in Psalm 89, in Psalm 110. But in Matthew chapter 1 verse 1, the first page of the New Testament, we read, "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ." What's the next line? "The son of David, the son of Abraham." And then turn to Luke chapter 1 verse 32. Matthew 1, "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ. The son of David." In other words, "We have a King." In Luke 1:32, the angel's announcement to Mary, "The Lord God will give to him the throne, the throne of his father, David, and he will reign forever and ever and of his kingdom, there will be no end." In other words, "We have a King." You get to the end of the Bible, Revelation chapter 22, Revelation chapter 22 verse 16, where Jesus Himself says, "I, Jesus, and the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star." In other words, "We have a King."


Is there someone somewhere who can keep out just all the sadness? I think that’s a question we’ve all asked; that’s an impulse we’ve all had. Is there someone who can just keep out all the sadness? When God made this promise to David and He said, “Your kingdom will last forever,” we see it was fulfilled in the greater than David, the Lord Jesus, who right now, He is seated on the throne of David and we are still seeing the Lord build His house. So when God commits Himself to a people, He commits Himself to them forever. So He will never leave you. He will never give up on you. He will never throw you aside. He will never stop reigning and ruling. He will conquer all yours and His enemies. He will make His blessings flow far as the curse is found. And He will keep out all the sadness.


Worship and Prayer

So God promises to be near, He promises to never leave. And then now in closing, what do we do with this tonight? What are we supposed to do with this? I want you to look in our text. There's a verse that we didn't read, just right after our text in verse 18. I want you to look at the beauty of verse 18. So, David, he had these dreams, he had these desires, and he goes to God and God says, "No." And what does he do with that? With the posture of a little child, he goes and sits at the feet of his King and he pours out his heart. He worships, praying. Look at the prayer. "Who am I, O Lord, and what is my house that You have brought me thus far?" And the beauty of this prayer – we don't have time to read it all right now – the beauty of this prayer is that David says nothing. David says nothing that God hasn't already promised him in verses 1 to 17. And so David is clinging to this promise, he's embracing the promise by faith, so much so that it gets deep into his heart and it changes him.


Robert McQuilkin served over twenty years as president of Columbia Bible College until 1990 when his wife, Muriel, God sick with Alzheimer's. Their story is a famous story. What is maybe less know is that two years before he decided to step down from the job that he loved so that he could better care for her, they got home care. She just started to develop some of the early stages and symptoms of dementia. And McQuilkin wrote this. He said, “During those two years, it became increasingly difficult to keep Muriel at home because as soon as I left, as soon as I left for work she would take off after me. Because with me she was content. Without me she was distressed. The walk to school is a mile round trip, so she would make that trip as many as ten times a day. Sometimes at night, when I helped her undress, I saw bloody feet. And when I told our family doctor, he said simply, ‘Such love.’ And then he said, ‘I have a theory that the characteristics developed over the years can sometimes come out at times like these.’”  So you understand what happened. Robert and Muriel, they had a covenant, and the promises, the promises went so deep into her that when her mind began to shut down, when her mind began to fail, that her heart and her habits would animate her body to go to him.

That’s what these promises are supposed to do – to go deep down into you and to change you. So if you’re here tonight and you understand that you are a wretch, you understand you are not a little sinner, you are a big sinner, and God has opened your eyes to see the truth and you’re clinging to it that the greater Son of David, Jesus Christ, saves sinners of whom you are the worst, and that means that God is near to you, Christ in you the hope of glory, and that He will never ever leave you and He will reign forever and ever and He is building His house. Amen. Let’s pray together.


God of all grace, You are our King. We ask that You would build this house, that You would bring it into greater fulfillment, and that You would show us the glories of what it means that You are our King and that You have committed Yourself to Your people forever. We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.

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