The Rector’s sermon for February 25, 2018                                                                                                                                         

A Lenten Preaching Series:  THY WILL BE DONE

3 of 9:  God’s Will and My Dreams


Today is the third sermon in our Lenten preaching series entitled Thy Will Be Done.  The theme for today is God’s Will and My Dreams, and the key verse is from the Second Book of Samuel:  “For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.”  (2 Samuel 7:21)


That’s somewhat of an obscure passage, so let’s see where it takes us.  This story has to do with the prophet Nathan in the time of King David.  The name Nathan means gift, but being a prophet meant that the message given wasn’t always a gift.  Sometimes the prophets delivered messages that weren’t well received.  Such a message is what we’re looking at today.  Let’s let Nathan tell the story:


“Have you ever had to tell your boss you were wrong?  Have you ever had to tell your boss he was wrong?  Or have you ever had to tell the most powerful man in the world his dreams for the future were completely off base?  Well, I was part of all that, and it wasn’t pretty.  Sometimes, when you speak for God, you have to voice the truth even when you don’t know what will happen next.  Here’s what happened…”


“David the king had finally ascended the throne of a united kingdom.  He conquered Jerusalem and set up his capital city there.  Then we brought the Tent of the Presence up to Jerusalem.  The Tabernacle had housed the Ark of the covenant ever since the days of Moses.  And now Yahweh pitched His tent in the shadow of the palace!  You should have seen David dance before the Ark!  Some thought the king made a fool of himself as we marched up the hill of the city and the crowd cheered; but the reckless abandon of David’s dance, and the clear voice of his son showed David owed allegiance to a greater King than himself.  I didn’t know David when he was just a shepherd boy, but it’s easy to imagine him singing to his sheep in the hills of Bethlehem.  The whole flock must have been treated to quite a private praise concert now and then!  David had a beautiful voice.  And he danced with the grace of a seasoned warrior.”


“So the Ark camped out in a crude shelter while David enjoyed his palace, and I think that bothered the king more than he let on.  David knew what it was like to sleep in an army tent, or a secret cave, or even out in the open air.  And now, with his power consolidated and his crown secure, it seemed somehow vulgar to have the Almighty God camped out in a lean-to David could see through his cedar plank window.  So the king called me in—the prophet Nathan; it’s always a good idea to consult a prophet when making big plans.  King David told me of his sweeping vision for a house for the Ark of the Covenant, a temple for the Mercy Seat where the Presence of Yahweh would dwell.  If David had a house of cedar, then so should God.  So I told David it sounded like a good idea; I couldn’t’ have known it was wrong.  King David was anointed with the Holy Spirit.  He was a man after Yahweh’s own heart.  David knew he owed his reign to the God he called King.   And now, God’s chosen, anointed leader wanted to build a house for God.  Of course I told him, ‘Do what your hand finds to do, for God is with you!’  But I was wrong.   Without a clear word to the contrary, someone who is anointed with the Holy Spirit is supposed to do what’s in front of him.  Well, a ‘clear word to the contrary’ came…directly from Yahweh himself!  Well, actually, God’s word came to me, and I had to take it to David!  Did I mention that my job as a prophet wasn’t always a gift?”


“So I went to David with this message: 

‘This is what the Lord Almighty says, ‘You want to build for me a house?  No, David!  I am going to build for you a house.  Your son can build my house, the temple, but I will build your house, a dynasty.  A Son of David will one day sit on an eternal throne; and I will be to him a Father, and he will be my own, beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.  And when that Son of David ascends his throne, his reign will have no end.’”


“So I was sent to tell David that his dream for the future was all wrong.  At least that’s what it felt like at the time…I guess I was actually sent to tell David that his dream for the future was—notall­ wrong—but too small!  David wasn’t going to get what he wanted; but what God wanted to give was so much more than David had dreamed.  Still…it’s never easy to tell the king he can’t have what he wants.”

“In my experience in some situations, other kings from other nations were known to kill the messenger!  And while David was a man after Yahweh’s own heart, he was also a man of war.  Even though David’s general Joab had been behind some of the more bloody politics of the time, David himself could be pretty brutal.  The man who brought news of King Saul’s death was executed for treason, and David himself gave the order.  So I set out to deliver God’s message to King David, and I made sure that General Joab was away on business!”


“When I reached the king, he was in high spirits.  He was already making plans to establish God’s dwelling permanently in the capital.  I had to get his attention away from the royal architects, stone masons, and carpenters in order to tell him the construction project would have to be put on hold.  As I told David he had to let go of his own dream for the future, his face hardened and his eyes grew dark.  He reluctantly dismissed the builders.  I tried to tell the King that the ‘whatever-your-hand-finds-to-do’ stuff was a general principle, and it wasn’t my fault, and all rules have exceptions, but he didn’t look like he was buying it.  All he heard was me telling him…NO!” 


“For a moment, all the pride and wrath of a powerful monarch rested on David’s brow like a crown.  I actually thought I might die!  So I gave up trying to make myself look good, and I just delivered the message entrusted to me.  I spoke the Word of the Lord instead of my excuses.  And I could actually see the transformation take place. 

‘…I am going to build for you a house.  Your son can build my house, the temple, but I will build your house, a dynasty.  A Son of David will one day sit on an eternal throne; and I will be to him a Father, and he will be my own, beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.  And when that Son of David ascends his throne, his reign will have no end.’”


“As I spoke God’s future over David, I could see the proud king melt away and the shepherd boy return.  David let go of his own dream for God’s future, in order to embrace God’s dream for his future.  When I finished the message, the king grabbed me by the elbow, marched me out of the palace, and took me right into the Tent of the Presence of Yahweh.  No cedar beams, no marble pillars; yet, we sat down to pray…and oh, how the king prayed!  He poured his words out to God the same way he had danced before the Ark, with total abandon.  I wept as I heard a king who knew both his place and his God: ‘Who am I, O Lord, that you would make such promises to me?’  The simple shepherd boy was back—David was always a better king when he was a shepherd first—and the shepherd boy knew how much he depended on his true King for everything he had.”


“David latched onto the promise of a royal heir, a Son of David, to sit on an eternal throne, a ruler whom God claimed as his beloved Son;  David heard the promise, received the promise, and let go of all his own dreams in order to hold on to that promise.  I left him still worshipping, still praising God’s will and purpose, still overcome with gratitude for a promise beyond his deserving.  And I went away with a deeper sense of God’s heart…”


“What kind of God puts his own comfort aside to make promises to his people?  What kind of divine will commits to individuals with a sketchy past and an unreliable future?  What kind of God replaces our small dreams for the future with His grand dreams for us?...  I had to tell King David his plans were being overruled by God’s plans; and David received that message as a gift!”



God doesn’t often send prophets today, but he gives us imagination; he gives us hope…and we trust in a future that God has already planned for each one of us, a future that is even greater than any of us could possible dream or imagine.


Let us pray:
     Almighty God, your plans are beyond my imagining.  The hopes and dreams I have for myself—for my relationships and my daily tasks and my future—I hold in open hands before you.  Shape my life according to your will, and help me release the good things I have planned so I may receive with joy and thankfulness the good things you have planned, through Jesus Christ, my Lord.  Amen.

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