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The Kingdom of God

June 13, 2021

I love go to hiking. That’s no surprise to most all of you. One of the things I love about hiking here in Montana, say compared to Western Washington where I’m from, is that when I go on a hike here I almost always have a view, and a great one at that. That wasn’t always the case back in Washington. To some extent, increased views here are due to the fewer clouds and less fog and more sun we have here than there, some of it’s because the trees are fewer and further between here then there, and of course it’s also because the mountains are just more spread out here, it is Big Sky Country after all. I got to hike Torrey Mountain last summer with Alan Weltzien and Dave Brown – which is just about the tallest mountain in all the Pioneers at 11,000 something feet – the view is stunning, you feel like you can see everything (and it also happens to be the only place hiking in the Pioneers that I’ve had cell reception – so it’s got that going for it too, I suppose.)

Anyway, here’s why I tell you all this: There are numerous times throughout scripture, and especially so in the Old Testament, that feel like a hike with no views. It feels disorienting, like a dark, dense forest and you’re not totally sure where you are or what you’re reading. But then occasionally, there are a few mountaintops, and upon reaching the summit, you feel like you can see just about everything. And 2 Samuel 7, our passage today, though it may initially read a little abstract and mysterious, is ultimately one of those mountaintop passages. Look at it closely, and you get a glimpse of the entire storyline of the bible itself.

And before we go any further, I’ll just warn you now, we’re going to cover some pretty theologically rich topics in this sermon, making it pretty dense overall, and because of that I promise to keep this message short, which seems appropriate also because if we’re out here in the heat for too long this morning we’re all going to melt into a giant puddle. So all that said, hang in here, we can do this.

As many of you know, this spring we’ve been doing a study on the Life of King David. For the past five weeks or so, we’ve looked at story from David’s life before he officially became Israel’s King, and now today, we fast forward quite a bit by jumping ahead from the later parts of 1 Samuel, to now a few chapters into 2 Samuel. And here’s what’s happened between then and now: David has officially and publicly been anointed and crowned King of Israel, he and his Israelite army have defeated countless foes, and after a long season on the run running from Saul and fighting battles against other nations, David and all of the Israelites have finally found peace and rest in the city of Jerusalem, it’s a place and time where they are finally able to settle down and make a home for themselves.

And as for our passage today, we pick things up right as David has this key realization, kind of this “What’s wrong with this picture? moment. He notices that as King, he’s living in this beautiful house of cedar, a house made of the finest materials available all while the ark of God is in a tent. And this all backwards in David’s eyes. The ark, (no not Noah’s ark, this is not some kind of big boat,) no the ark was, to put it bluntly a very fancy piece of furniture, a large chest of sorts, in it were the stone tablets on which the 10 commandments were written, and other things, and it was a key fixture in the tabernacle, the place of worship for God’s people up until this point, and most importantly the ark and the tabernacle at large symbolized God’s presence with his people. Wherever the tabernacle and ark within it when, God’s presence went with it. And here’s David in a fancy house, while the ark is a tent. And in David’s eyes, that’s not right! As David sees it, the ark needs a nicer home, a more permanent home, a dwelling more appropriate given all that it represents.

In short, David desires to build permanent home, a dwelling for God. This is a noble thing that David desires here, a fitting objective for a man who it was said was a man after God’s own heart.

And yet, through his friend and prophet Nathan, God, to David’s great surprise, turns things around on David. Effectively saying,

“David, you will not build me a house, but rather I will build you one, David.”

The second half of verse 11 says this, “the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.

Which, at first glance, is admittedly a strange thing for God to say to David. David after all does have a brick and mortar, or technically, a cedar house. Why would he need another?

Well, context shows us here that “house” in this passage takes on a secondary meaning. Turns out there’s a play on words going on here. Here’s what God says next after promising David a house, saying:

12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.”

In summary, here’s what we learn: In the end, David will not build God a house, a permanent dwelling place for him to inhabit, but instead God will build David a house, that is, God will establish a royal dynasty, a kingdom line through David. God will ensure there is a king from the line of David ruling on the throne forevermore.

That is, in essence, the summary of this story and the summary of the promises that are made: God will build David a house, by establishing his kingdom reign forever.

Now, at this point, let’s turn the corner. Here are two foundational biblical principles worth taking away from our passage today. Here’s the first:

God’s presence today dwells in a people, rather than a place.

This principle may feel like it’s coming out of left field and understandably so. Here we have to look at the storyline of scripture from 30,000ft. Notice the tension of our story today.

David wants to build God a permanent dwelling where God’s presence can reside, but yet God says, no, rather than you giving me a place, I’m going to give you a people, a Kingdom line.

Throughout the Old Testament, God’s presence dwelt in particular place. First through the tabernacle, a transportable dwelling, as God led the Israelites through the wilderness and to the Promised Land and up until this point in scripture. Later David’s son Solomon builds the temple, a fixed and permanent dwelling in Jerusalem, the central place of worship for God’s people, the place where God’s presence would dwell. And then by the end of the Old Testament, we’re left with this tension, there’s a rebuild temple in Jerusalem, but yet God’s presence is nowhere to be found. God’s presence is no longer in a place. Instead, it’s about to be found in a person.

When John describes Jesus in the first chapter of his gospel, he writes this, “The word became flesh and dwelt among us.” That word dwelt is the same word used to describe God’s presence in the tabernacle and temple long ago. In fact, it would be even more accurate to say, “The word became flesh and tabernacled and templed among us.” God’s presence being made known and experienced through the person of Jesus Christ.

Shortly before Jesus’s death, he said that he would destroy this temple and rebuild it in three days, an allusion to his death and resurrection, how he would rise from the destruction of the cross some three days later. And before leaving his disciples, Jesus gave his disciples the promise of the Holy Spirit, God’s presence dwelling within them. And years later, Paul ties all of these themes together, when he claims that God’s people, the church, is the true temple, the true place where God dwells. 16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

In the end, God’s presence today, through the work of Christ, and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, dwells in a people, rather than a place. There are many implications for us as Christians, but here’s one for today, and that is, what we are doing here today, worshipping outdoors, a local park, outside of our physical church building, does not make our worship today less in any way, but rather simply different.

Sometimes, I’ve heard our church building described as God’s house and there’s some truth to that. I know that there’s sacredness and reverence to our church sanctuary, and understandably so - so many memories made in that place, baptisms, weddings, funerals, not to mention years and years Sunday worship.

But yet, the irreducible ingredient that makes worship, worship, that makes a church, a church, isn’t a building or place, but rather a people, a people centered around a faith in Jesus Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit.

Our worship all of last summer, and here today is not less than. It’s just different. In the end, this is a have worship, will travel operation.

God’s presence today dwells in a people, rather than a place.

That’s biblical principle one, here’s biblical principle two. And this is where we’ll wrap things up today. And my gosh, if we’re not physically melting under the heat, I’m sure your brains are to this point in the sermon. Just a few more minutes to go.

We are citizens of a heavenly kingdom, under the authority of a new and better King.

As we’ve summarized before, David wants to build God a permanent dwelling where God’s presence can reside, but yet God says, no, rather than you giving me a place, I’m going to give you a people, a Kingdom line, saying,

16 Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.

And for many years going forward, that was true, until it wasn’t. For many, many years after David passed, his descendants would rise to claim the throne, serving as the King of Israel. But then there’s the exile, the city of Jerusalem destroyed, their people displaced, until one day a small remnant of them, through God’s providence, return to Jerusalem to settle down and start over all over again.

And just as it was with the tension with the temple, the Old Testament ends with yet another tension. The biblical story heads into intermission with no king on the throne, no son or descendant of David ruling the nation of Israel. And God’s promise of a forever lasting kingdom doesn’t seem to be forever really at all.

Until, of course, and I’m sure you saw this coming, Jesus enters the scene. The son of Mary and Joseph, Jesus is a descendant from David’s line, throughout his earthly life he’ll even be called the son of David. In fact, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, he said this about Jesus, “the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David.”

Throughout his life, one of the dominant themes of Jesus’s teaching is the kingdom of God, read through the gospels and you’ll notice he’s talking about it all the time. In fact, Jesus’s very first recorded sermon went something like this, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near.” And today, Jesus, having ascended into heaven, having empowered and equipped you and me for mission, having given us the Holy Spirit, Jesus has taken his rightful place on his heavenly throne, sitting at the right hand of God the Father.

Through Jesus, we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom, under the authority of a new and better King.

So what does this all mean for you and me? Well, Pastor John Piper writes this: “The mission of the church today is to submit ourselves to the Son of David who right now rules invisibly from heaven. And our mission is to announce the good news to people in every neighborhood and every nation that they can be happy subjects of Christ's kingdom forever if they transfer their allegiance from the kingdom of this world to the kingdom of Christ.”

This past Sunday, we had a membership class, in which we discussed the role and calling of a church member, that we as church members would commit to doing four things, and as you’ll see they all start with the letter “G.” That we would 1) gather regularly and faithfully for Sunday Worship, 2) Seek to grow in our love and knowledge of Christ, 3) that we would give of our time, talents and treasure for the glory of God and good of his people and fourth and finally, and this is the one I want to highlight today:

That we would Go. That as followers of Jesus, that we would go and make disciples, bringing Jesus’s healing wherever we live, work, play or learn. And that as we gather this morning, and then scatter to wherever God calls us to go, that we would go as citizens of a heavenly kingdom, under the authority of a new and better King.

And so whether you are a plumber or teacher or doctor or rancher. Whether you’re a toddler or teenager or parent or octogenarian, friends may you leave this place today, that we would go as citizens of a heavenly kingdom, under the authority of a new and better King, showing the world around you what life in the kingdom of God is like.

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