It can be hard to see that God has a plan…

Chatswood Baptist Church

2 Samuel 7

“The Lord works in mysterious ways.” How often have we heard that?

I wonder if that is ever comforting for someone dealing with something really hard. “Well you know… the Lord works in mysterious ways…”

Works what exactly? What’s going on? What is God’s plan?

It’s worth acknowledging I think, that sometimes it’s hard to see that God has a plan. I think about what’s going on in Hong Kong right now and so much of it seems so chaotic and a resolution seems so far off.

In Syria, I’m not sure if you’ve been following it, but the U.S. has just announced they’ll be pulling out their troops from northern Syria and the Turkish troops will be moving in — which I suppose had to happen at some point, but I can’t help but feel really concerned for the minority groups that live in that area.

There used to be 130,000 christians living in that area before the ISIS movement and the Syrian Crisis… today their are around 40,000 – that’s 90,000 people either killed or displaced. And that’s only one minority group.

Where is God’s plan in all this?

It can be easy to stand at a distance and not let it affect you, but what if you are in the midst of it? What then? What hope have we got?

I don’t think there is any silver bullet answer. But I do think this passage is a significant piece in the big picture of what’s going on. And so I invite you to listen!

David’s plan

2 Samuel 7 begins with a picture of peace. The king has sat down—he’s settled: “the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him.”

And David is filled with gratitude. v2 “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”

If you’re unsure what David is talking about, since God had rescued the people of Israel out of Egypt he had commanded that a special container be made, covered with gold, in order to hold the two tablets of the covenant that God had made with Israel inside.

This made sense, seeing as at the time they left Egypt they had no place to call their home — they were wandering around the desert and at every place they would rest, one of the tribes would set up this magnificent tent where they would place the ark of the covenant — the container holding the two tablets. It represented the reality that God dwelt among his people and that he had a special relationship with them. Any time they would move somewhere else, the tribe of the Levites would pack up the tent, carry it to the next place and set it up there.

Now since that time, around 400 years has passed. David, recognises—hey we’re not living in the desert anymore—God has settled us in this land and he’s given us peace from all our enemies, we’re prosperous… is it really okay that I live in a really nice palace, while the Ark is stored in a tent?

Clearly, David has it in mind to build something special for the Ark to reside in, and Nathan the prophet, well he’s got no reason to say no does he? Look what he says in verse 3, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the LORD is with you.”

So that was David’s plan — God has done something special for us, I’m going to do something special for Him. I’m going to build a Temple for the Ark to reside in.

God’s plan

God’s plan was a little different. And it’s actually great.

That same night, God spoke to Nathan the prophet. (A prophet in the Old Testament, was the person who would deliver the words of God, to the people.)

To summarise, God asks Nathan to go back to David and say, “You’re going to build me a house? No. I’m going to make you a house.

First, God explains that since the time He rescued the people out of Egypt, He’d never required a “house”. He’d never asked for one either.

Second, he explains that God Himself was the one who took David from being a shepherd and turned him into a king.

It’s maybe a little bit similar to whenever I try to do something nice for my parents-in-law—who are always doing something nice for Kat and I—babysitting, shouting dinner… But no matter what I try to do to show my gratitude it’s always the wrong thing to do. I try to say thank you —“Nonsense! We’re family!” is the response—Or I’ll try and take the lead and pay for dinner instead of them, and then I’ll find out later I shouldn’t have paid for that, because—tradition, or something I don’t understand! So I’ve learned to just know my place for the moment and be thankful.

David here needed to understand his own place. Read verses 7 and 8 with me, “Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” ’

8 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel.”

The flow of blessing is coming from God to David, not the other way around. Look at what God would do for David and His people:

  • I will make your name great (verse 9)
  • I will provide a place for my people Israel (verse 10a)
  • I will give you rest from all your enemies (verse 10b-11a)
  • The LORD himself will establish a house for you (verse 11b)
  • I will establish the kingdom of your offspring (verse 12)

And now look carefully with me at verse 13. If you’ve got a Bible, make sure it’s in front of you so that you can read this—How great is this promise to David concerning his offspring. verse 13 “He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

This is incredibly significant. The people chose Saul to be king before David, but that didn’t mean that Saul was God’s choice. And just being king didn’t mean you had a dynasty. Saul’s son did not become king.

Contrast this to David. God chose David to be king, and more than that, God chose David’s descendants after him to be king as well. God chose and promised to make David a ‘house’—a dynasty.

God even promised that David’s offspring could not undermine the promise that God has made. Look at verses 14 and 15 with me:

14 “ I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands.

15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.

16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’ ”

What a great promise. If you were king— wouldn’t you want to hear that?

If you were an Israelite at the time— wouldn’t you want to hear that? Under this king and his descendants would be Stability. Peace—Rest from your enemies. Prosperity. Forever. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?

It’s the sort of thing many people in the world right now would want to hear too— perhaps you and I also.

Plan fulfilled

But I have to tell you, the promise is even better than it sounds—once we understand where it fits in God’s big plan.

Way back in Genesis—back in the garden —Adam and Eve were deceived by the Serpent and sinned. They disobeyed God. We call it the fall. Evil entered the world at that time and they were removed from God’s place and His blessing. But God made a promise that one of Eve’s offspring would crush the head of the Serpent.

Who would this offspring be, Who would reverse the pain caused by the Fall? Who might even make a way back into God’s presence?

Well as time went on, many candidates arose and at one point it looked like Noah might be the one! At that time, because of Sin everywhere and in every heart, God destroyed the world, but rescued Noah and his family alone. Could Noah and his family be the ones who would make peace with God and make everything right again?

But straight out of the gate, it became clear that Noah and his family were just as sinful as everybody else. So this person, the Serpent crusher would come from Noah’s family line, but it wasn’t Noah himself.

Later, out of every person on earth, Abraham, a wandering Amarean would be chosen by God, and God would say to Abraham, in Genesis 22:17

17“…I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. …

18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed…”

It would appear that one of Abraham’s offspring would be the Serpent crusher…

Well Abraham had sons, and one of those sons had 12 sons… and we’re still wondering who this One would be. Who would make everything right again?

Well the 12 grandkids of Abraham became 12 massive families or tribes and out of those 12 tribes one was chosen by God. The tribe of Judah. And in that tribe one man was chosen: David.

And David establishes the Kingdom, brings the Ark representing God’s presence with His people to dwell in their midst, settles in his palace…

And God says… “I will make your name great, give you rest from your enemies, provide a place for my people…your throne and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”

It looks like we’ve arrived doesn’t it? The One has arrived!

Only there’s a problem isn’t there?

Do you know what the problem is?

Well Solomon was David’s son, and peace and even greater prosperity was enjoyed during his reign, but he was also terribly sinful. And the bible doesn’t hide it.

After Solomon the entire kingdom was split in two. Israel in the North, and Judah in the South. These southern kings continued to be David’s offspring, but king after king did not seek after God, did things their own way and the kingdom, well… We could hardly call it peaceful.

I wonder what you would have been thinking when the Northern kingdom, in 722BC was conquered by Assyria and exiled.

You might be thinking if you lived in Judah, “Hey don’t worry, we have the Davidic king! The promise! God said to David, ‘your throne will be established forever!’”

But then… in the 6th century BC, off goes Judah to Babylon. The entire nation in exile. And just pause to think about what it means to have your nation conquered and deported during that time. Think of the violence, the hunger, the pain…

“Well the LORD works in mysterious ways…”

You’d have to be questioning the promise wouldn’t you? What happened to God’s plan? Where’s the peace? The rest from your enemies? The greatness? The kingdom that would be established forever?

I wonder how much the average person held out hope in the promise and how many gave up hoping.

But then, we also need to take a closer look at the promise. Read again from verse 14, “I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands.”

In the books of the kings, some of the most common words you’ll hear are the name of the king then these words, “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” It happens over and over again.

And so the LORD did what he promised, “When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men”… God used the surrounding nations to do exactly that —and so put the nation into exile. Away from God’s place. Away from God’s blessing.

It’s like a repeat of what happened in the garden isn’t it? Humanity sinned and lost the right to be with God.

But look again at verse 15, “But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”

Eventually, God returned Judah to the land. But it was never the same. They never really had peace in the land again as they had under David and Solomon.

And so what of the promise made to Adam and Eve — of Eve’s offspring who would crush the head of the Serpent?

And to Abraham, who’s offspring would bless the entire world?

And to David, who’s throne would be established forever and enjoy peace forever?

Because it looks like the house of David is a failure. It’s hit a dead end.

It looks like there’s no way on earth this promise could be fulfilled.

Would you turn with me to Isaiah 11:1? Isaiah was a prophet who wrote this in the mid 8th century BC and spoke a lot about what would happen to Judah in the future. He wrote,

11, 1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse (King David’s father), and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

Sounds like our ‘One’ doesn’t it?

Recently in our yard a bunch of trees were cut down. And I was reminded about this passage, because out of the stump of the tree came these beautiful green shoots. The tree is not dead! It’s alive! … Of course unfortunately for us, this particular tree is noxious. But you get the idea!

In the same way, God promised through the prophet Isaiah that Israel had not hit a dead end. The One was coming…

And the One came didn’t he? We know who he is. The shoot from the stump of Jesse.

Do you ever skip over genealogies in the Bible? I’ll be honest, I when I’m doing my bible reading plans… I read most of the bible! But genealogies… I may or may not skip over them.

And Matthew knows this! That’s why he provides us a neat little summary of his genealogy at the beginning of his gospel.

Matthew 1:1 “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham

Matthew is identifying Jesus with the King whose kingdom would know no end, and with Abraham’s offspring, through whom the whole earth would be blessed.

Imagine the joy you would have felt meeting Jesus in the first century, seeing the healings, seeing the multiplication of the loaves and fish, the prosperity that Jesus brought. You’d be thinking, “this is the one! This is him! I knew God would fulfil his promise to us.”

Imagine how you would have felt, when Jesus, son of David, son of Abraham, died on a Roman cross. Disfigured. Spat upon. Crown of thorns on his head, making an absolute mockery of him and the promise of the king whose kingdom would have no end. Imagine the deflation you would have felt.

Where is God? What about his plan? What’s going on?

Of course we know what happened. God vindicated his King by raising him from the dead and has promised he’ll return to judge all people everywhere and restore his Kingdom which will truly know no end.

A kingdom of Peace, prosperity, of rest from enemies. Where God is with his people and his people enjoy his blessing, under Jesus the king.

It sounds good doesn’t it?

Responding to the plan of God

God has promised this.

And we live in the time in between as a people with a solid hope. It’s the hope of the Israelites we share, but it’s also the hope of the whole world.

And I want to finish were we started. Think of what’s going on in Hong Kong right now. Sometimes I just think it’s really scary. What will happen? Will things escalate? Will any more people be injured or killed?

I have a friend living in Hong Kong right now and he has said that as a Christian it’s especially hard to know what to do. Should he be joining protests? Should he be stopping people from joining protests? What should he think about it all?

And I think it’s at times like these that we can wonder what happened to God’s promise? Where is the peace? The rest? What’s going on? Well, the most fundamental thing we need to understand is just what Jesus said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)

As long as we are in this world, we will experience suffering, as the kingdoms of this world vie for power and we as individuals seek after our own needs and don’t submit ourselves to God’s rightful rule.

Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world.

But secondly, His kingdom is coming. In fact, in one sense it’s already here—in that Jesus came, died and rose as king and we who trust in him are citizens of his kingdom now. All we’re really waiting for is for the kingdom to be consummated. For Jesus’ return.

It may look at times like the world is chaos. But we have to ask ourselves, do we have reason to trust that God will fulfil his promise? Think about all the promises that God has made through history. Think about the unfolding of God’s plan. At each point, throughout history I can see the temptation to doubt, or to stop trusting, but then—I also see history moving steadily, surely, toward one man — Jesus.

2 Corinthians 1:20 “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.”

So when bad things happen around the world—which they will only continue to do —I just want to urge you to place yourself in God’s unfolding plan and realise, you have so much more reason to hope than the Israelite deported to Babylon.

Why? because you’ve seen the King. You know who he is. You know what he’s capable of. You know that only he has power over death and will return to establish his kingdom, of which you are a citizen. If you’ve placed your trust in Jesus and acknowledge him as Lord.

And so finally, I think it’s appropriate to pray like David prayed in our passage. God made a promise to David and so David simply prayed, (2 Sam 7:25 “LORD God, keep forever the promise you have made… Do as you promised so that your name will be great forever.”

Or as Jesus prayed, and I invite you to join me:

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ Amen.