Scriptures: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38
The house that God built
We continue with our Advent theme of why, and why things happened. Today we're going to take a slightly different approach. We're not looking at the Gospel, primarily. We're going to be looking at the passage from 2 Samuel.
This shows an example, as was noted by the liturgist, of how sometimes God has different plans than we do, and God's plans are always far more comprehensive, and better for us in the end.
I want to note that in 2nd Samuel, David wanted to build a house for God. He didn't want to do it to show his own power, or for his own aggrandizement. He really wanted to do it because he felt it wasn't fair that he – that is, David – should live in a fancy palace (cedar is one of the most expensive woods that you could get) while God had to dwell in an over-sized tent – the tabernacle.
In this passage, God told David he could not build a house, for several reasons. Number one, there was blood on David's hands. After all he was not just a general in war, but he had murdered Uriah. Number two, it wasn't the right time for a house. And three, God didn't need it.
God had always, by His own choosing, as He noted, stayed right in the midst of His people as they traveled around. That was why He told them to build the tabernacle in the first place, so that He could be with His people. God reminds David that he himself was anointed king in the pasture, and was properly ordained to such a role long before he had the palace.
God then makes a couple of statements, some of which I want to expand upon today. One thing that He does is He promises that one of David's sons will build a temple. I believe that, despite the fact that God later gives the plans for a permanent temple to David to pass on, this wasn't what God meant it all.
Again, as you see, God's plans go far wider and deeper than we could ever imagine, even when He tells us plainly what He intends. God was always looking forward to the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and to the Church, where we become temples for the Holy Spirit.
He tells David that He is going to establish David's line in perpetuity as a dynasty. David would have a “house” that would one day produce the king who would rule forever. It becomes fairly obvious to us now, after the fact, that God was speaking of one descendant in particular, of Jesus Christ.
So let's look at what God means when He speaks of houses, and building houses, and what it means for us today. First, I want to look at what God usually meant when He spoke of “house.” I looked up the word house, and it is used in the New American Standard Bible 1,836 times. Not all of those times are about God. In fact, most of them aren't.
But throughout the Old Testament, no matter who is speaking, I noticed that the word “house” could often be replaced with “household,” and in fact, some of those 1,836 times were the word “household.” So what is the difference between “house” and “household”? I'm so glad you asked. A “house” is a place or a structure, under most uses, while “household” is the people involved.
Household, by the way can be greater than simply blood family relationships. Even on our tax forms today, there's a question about if you're the head of the household. That would be in the case that it is more than just your family living in that house, but you are the one who is the primary provider for everyone who lives there.
A house is stone and mortar, while a household is relational. It is only when historians move to the grander scale, like dynasties, that they begin to call households “houses,” particularly with the aristocracy.
So God has promised that David would have a house. It wasn't the palace he lived in. God was promising David descendants, one of whom would rule in perpetuity – that's forever – someday. Now to give you an idea about time frames, it's about 800 years later that that happened. God's perspectives are not our perspectives.
I'm sure that when David got that message from God, through Nathan, that he wasn't thinking that it would be 800 years later. Then again, when Christ said, “The kingdom is at hand,” and all throughout the New Testament we see statements that Jesus is coming again, and I bet that the writers of the New Testament did not think it was going to be 2000+ years before Christ came back. Again, God's plans go far beyond our own.
So the houses are the people, and we see this in a number of different ways. In the Gospel passage today, starting in verse 31, it says, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the most high, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will rule [or reign] over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
Even there, as a messenger of God, the angel is referring to a house, a house that is made of people, not of stone. And Mary obviously understands this. She doesn't ask anything about a temple. She just says, “How can this be, since I'm a virgin?” And the angel says it will be a miracle, to put it bluntly, and also says that even her near relative Elizabeth has had a miracle. “For nothing is impossible with God.”
God was going to continue this house, through the birth of the one named Jesus, who will have the throne of his father David, and will reign over the house of Jacob forever. When we look at the genealogies of Jesus, Matthew and Luke each have a different genealogy, and that is on purpose.
In Luke 3, we have the genealogy for Mary. Luke, being who he is, a doctor and a historian, goes all the way back to Adam. He gives the lineage, through the line of David, to show that Mary was of the line of David, part of the house of David that God built.
In Matthew, we see a slightly different, shortened version, if you will. But it also shows that Joseph came through the house of David, and was of the line of David. So both parents were of the house of David.
You might wonder, what does it matter with Joseph, because Joseph wasn't his dad? But remember that kingships were given through the father. Inheritances were given through the father. Since Jesus was legally Joseph's son, that meant as firstborn, Jesus legally had the right to inherit the kingship. I've spoken before of adoption, in the Jewish and Roman understanding, and what a serious thing it was.
So the two gospels together show that Jesus had right, by both legal right and blood right, to be the king who would succeed David, who would rule over the house of Jacob – which is another word for the kingdom of Israel, all of those who were part of the people of God – forever.
God, when giving that promise to David, knew that ultimately there would have to be the incarnation. This is why He did it the way He did. This is why He established the line of David. Always, He promised, from back with Abraham, that the world would be blessed by his seed. And here with David, He promises that there will be a king, a ruler that will come through his line, and it will be one that will be worthy of being there forever.
God knew, even from before the beginning of time, of course, but here in our story in 2 Samuel, that the incarnation was in the works, and this is the way He was going to do it. And we needed that incarnation.
We needed that incarnation, because that was the only way that we could be saved. As Athanasius (who was a famous early church theologian) once said, if there was any part of Jesus that was not human, then God could not relate to that part and therefore could not save it, since God is Other.
By the same token, if Jesus was not fully God, any part that was not divine would not be worthy, and therefore that part could not be saved. So the only way to get the full salvation of a human, a child of God, a child of Adam, would be if the incarnation was fully human and fully God.
So we needed the human house. We needed the human line, the kingship, the blood relation. And we also needed the divine line, given through the Holy Spirit.
But what's amazing is that His plans don't stop there. He didn't just say, “OK, now I've built My house. We're good.” That was just another step along the way. Because Christ needed to ascend, so that the Holy Spirit could descend and dwell within us. It was only then that the temple of God was truly built.
And lest you have difficulty wrapping your mind around that, or believing it, in 1 Peter, he talks about us being living stones in a house not made with hands. Now I don't know about you, but I guess I get distracted, and I'm creative too, so whenever I read that passage, I get this image of people sort of folded up and squished into the shape of a brick. But we're living stones, making a house not built with hands.
It is very obvious from that that God's house is not a structure. It's not made with stone and mortar, with bricks and wood. God's house is relational. God's house is built with people. And not just any people. People who have been adopted by God as His children, through Jesus Christ.
Even now, He continues to build His house, through you, until that day when He comes again, and we shall see the house in its fullness at that point in time. It will be a wondrous thing. But it won't be wondrous in terms of how big it is, or made of pearl or alabaster or emeralds or jade or any kind of precious substance, though Scripture does talk about heaven being that way.
It will be amazing and incredible in terms of the variety and the number of people whom God has chosen to adopt. None of us deserves it. None of us can claim it on our own. It is only by God's grace and God's mercy that we even have the opportunity.
And yet that's how much God loves us. He loves us enough to send His Son as the Savior of mankind, providing continuity through the house that He began with David, and completed in terms of its early stage with Jesus, and which now extends through us, as we continue to build “additions,” if you will, to the house that God built.
This is a reason, I think, for excitement. Paul noted,
Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now has been disclosed, and through the Scriptures of the prophets, in accordance with the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever.
Paul inserted a lot of stuff in there. But the main point is “Now to Him, the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever.” Why all that inserted stuff? That's not about so much about God as it is about us, and our establishment, through God, as the people of God, as long as we're faithful to God, and the house that will be built with us.
May your house be full of joy, this Advent and Christmas season.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.