Have you ever been so absolutely committed to some cause, worthy, or not so worthy, that you spent nearly every waking moment thinking about it? Did that cause, from time to time, enter even into the life of your dreams because you were so consumed by it? This can happen from time to time in our lives, and when it does happen, it has the potential to consume us totally. The problem with this sort of thing, as I hinted at a moment ago, is two-fold. Either our ambitions are noble, righteous and holy ambitions, or they can be evil, nasty and vengeful ambitions. Here’s a no-brainer: noble, righteous and holy things build up, and evil, nasty and vengeful things destroy. This we know very well, and yet we complicate this truth severely by passing back and forth over the line between “build up” and “destroy”. I’m not sure why we do this, but I’m guilty of it too.
King David had a wonderfully noble dream. He wanted, for all the world, to build a fitting house of worship that would bring glory and honor to the God he so loved and so adored. David wanted to build a temple that would soar to the highest heavens. He wanted to build a house of worship that would be so awesome and so awe-inspiring, that the very building itself would create an atmosphere of humility and adoration in the hearts of the people who came to worship there. This is why we create places of worship even today, that are designed, decorated and furnished so that they are like no other building that we enter into at any other time in our lives. Worship spaces are holy, sacred, and completely other. David wanted to have a place where God would dwell, he wanted to have a place where everybody who entered it to worship would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were in the presence of Almighty God.
And the idea of creating this place of worship completely consumed David. And our text this morning gives us a sense of how David was so deeply preoccupied by this project. It quotes David saying, “I will not enter my house or get into my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” That’s determination. That’s drive. That’s commitment. It is also exaggeration, but it is sort of a godly kind of exaggeration, more like hyperbole. We know that David had to go inside his house. It is where he lived. And truth be known, as king, he didn’t live
all that shabbily. He had some pretty decent digs. But his nice house was actually a significant part of his motivation for wanting to build a dwelling place for God. If he had a nice house, then the Lord, the Mighty One Jacob, ought to have a better house in which to dwell. And I’m guessing here this morning, that none of us here today has as nice a house and as large a house and as costly a house as this one that surrounds us now. Our forebears were thinking the same thing.
David also vowed not to go to bed or to sleep until he had built the Lord a house, but that’s also exaggeration, because sleep and rest is how our bodies get restored after the labors of our day. Sleep and rest honors God, who created us. It is our way of emulating God who rested after his work of creation. Rest is why we are commanded to observe the Sabbath.
So what is David saying? He’s saying, my heart won’t rest until I find a dwelling place for the Lord. My heart won’t rest until there is a house of worship that brings honor and glory to the Lord. For David, this project was a labor of love that consumed his whole being. And it consumed his whole being, because at some point in his life, David had an epiphany. He had a “God moment.” Somewhere along the path of his life, David came to fully understand the love and the mercy and the grace and the forgiveness of God. This is an essential step for all of us. It is called salvation. David was no saint, and he knew it. David was a sinner, and he had committed many egregious sins, murder and adultery among them. And like most of us, he rued the outcomes of those sins deeply. He was ashamed of himself, and he bitterly regretted his wrongdoings. He struggled with depression* and unworthiness, as many of us do. But somewhere along the way he ran smack-dab into grace and mercy and love and forgiveness of God. And it transformed his heart. He came to a place in life where he finally realized what God was all about. And he was stunned and amazed and astonished by God, and he was filled with gratitude for all that God had done in his life. And that is why he so desperately, so earnestly wanted to build this house of worship to bring honor and glory to God. When we are stunned and amazed and astonished by God’s love and mercy and grace and forgiveness, we too, will be overwhelmed by gratitude and thankfulness.
David’s passion for building a house of worship for God might have ended as a very sad story, and maybe even worse than that. Even though it was David’s passion, it was not God’s intent that David build this house of worship. Yipes. Ultimately it was David’s son Solomon to whom God gave that responsibility. That’s why we call it Solomon’s Temple.
Is that a bad thing? Is it a sad thing? Probably. At least at first. David had a powerful passion that he was not allowed to see to fruition.
But it is to all of us a very powerful reminder that God’s work is always on-going in this world, and that God’s timing is not always in sync with our timing. In fact, we like to force God’s hand when it comes to timing, and it is quite a discovery to learn that God’s hand will not be forced, under any circumstances.
I am absolutely convinced that David did not invent his vision of building a grand house of worship. He did not dream it up or make it up on his own. God gave him that vision. God put it in David’s heart, and David clearly saw what he could accomplish for the glory and honor of God. But sometimes the visions that we have, supported and buttressed with a holy fervor, have to wait until God is ready. The Apostle Paul had this figured out and he had learned to live with it when he said, “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants, nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” +
Was that a hard truth for the Apostle to learn? Absolutely. Is it a hard lesson for us to learn? It certainly is. This morning we are carrying on a 200 year old tradition in this community. Every time we put our offering in the plate, and every committee we serve on and every time we participate in one of our missions, God’s work continues in God’s timing and always to the glory of God.
Do we know what the result of our work will be 10 or 20 or 100 years from now? No we do not. Do we know the future results of the ministries and missions that we begin now, in our time? No we do not. But we do our work, and we answer our callings, and we dream our dreams, and we receive our visions, knowing that our task is first and foremost to give honor and glory to God. We respond, because like David, we too, have had a “God moment”; we have had an epiphany. We are saved. We have come face to face with the grace and love and mercy and forgiveness of God, and we are astonished and amazed. But now, like David and like Paul, we leave the timing of the completion of God’s Kingdom up to God.
And that’s where I want to finish up this morning. It was David’s deep desire to build a dwelling place for God. He desperately wanted to build a house of worship. He had a passion. We have passions and desires to serve God, too. But in God’s ultimate wisdom David’s passion was not fulfilled. We do not question God’s wisdom.
God, though, had something more awesome and more amazing and more astonishing for David. God gave David a different vision, and this vision came with a promise. This promise became the ultimate
fulfillment of David’s desire to build a dwelling place for God. The promise is stated in verses eleven and twelve. In those verses, God promises David that he will be the father and ancestor of many kings over Israel, and that those kings will sit on the throne of Israel forever. That promise was fulfilled.
And then, a little more than two thousand years ago, there was a little baby boy who was born in an obscure little village in Judah named Bethlehem. That little boy was a descendant of David. But in addition to his fairly impressive lineage, this little boy was also the Son of God and the King of the Universe. And with his arrival God established a new and permanent dwelling place for himself. This new dwelling place is more awesome and more majestic and more beautiful than any edifice or building ever conceived by the human mind, because this new dwelling place was conceived, designed and created by God himself. This new dwelling place is nothing less than the human heart, and it is beautiful and majestic beyond all imagination. This is where God lives. God with us. Emmanuel.
*If you are having trouble accepting this, consider that there are 150 Psalms, many of which are attributed to David. Pick a few random psalms that are attributed to David and read them with discernment.
+ I Corinthians 3:5-7