Sunday Services: 9:00am & 10:45am

Far More Than We Can Ask or Imagine

Far More Than We Can Ask or Imagine

Preached by Benjamin Vrbicek

It’s been said that when Christians pray to God they can hear three responses in return from God. We can hear, Yes, No, and Not Yet.

Perhaps that’s too simple, though. There are other responses. Sometimes when we pray, we don’t hear, Yes, No, and Not Yet. Sometimes instead we hear God say, “Far more than you could ever ask or even imagine, I will do for you. According to the riches of my glory, according to the breadth and length and height and depth of my love, a love which surpasses knowledge, I will bless you.” That’s a paraphrase of something the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:14–21 in one of his prayers.

So I ask, what would it sound like if King David heard this from God? What would it sound like of King David heard from God, “I will do for you, David, far better than you can ask or imagine”? What would it sound like? I think it would sound exactly like 2 Samuel 7, which is our passage this morning.

Scripture Reading

If you are using the brown Bible’s on the end of the row, it’s on page 331. After I read the passage (which is long one), we’ll pray and study this together.

7:1 Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, 2 the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” 3 And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.”

4 But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, 5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling.
7 In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ 8 Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. 9 And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” 

17 In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David. 18 Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? 19 And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord God! 20 And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord God! 21 Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it. 22 Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. 23 And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods? 24 And you established for yourself your people Israel to be your people forever. And you, O Lord, became their God. 25 And now, O Lord God, confirm forever the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, and do as you have spoken. 26 And your name will be magnified forever, saying, ‘The Lord of hosts is God over Israel,’ and the house of your servant David will be established before you. 27 For you, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. 28 And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. 29 Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you. For you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.”

Introduction

In my neighborhood there are some missionaries who often visit us. They are not Christian missionaries, though they do sometimes talk about Jesus. And we’ve become pretty good acquaintances with one woman in particular. I’ll call her Mary. Mary is very friendly. She brings us a copy each month of her religious magazine for us to read, which I almost never do (though occasionally I skim it).

One time, we had Mary and her husband over for a study of the Bible with my wife and me. All four of us sat in my living room and talked about Jesus and faith and what it means to be in a right relationship with God. On one level it was pleasant, which is a good thing, but on a deeper level, it was frustrating because I felt as though we were talking past each other, using the same language but not meaning the same things. And that was frustrating because the thing that makes Christianity so beautiful, and in fact the thing that makes Christianity Christianity, was being obscured.

Anyway, because Mary knows we have so many children, once she gave us a copy of her favorite children’s Bible, which is produced by her organization. It was a sweet gesture. We were standing in our living room, so I went to my bookshelf and asked if I could give her a copy of my favorite children’s Bible, which is The Jesus Storybook Bible. As I gave it to her, I asked Mary why she liked her Children’s Bible so much—meaning not the one I just gave her, but why she liked the Bible she gave me so much.

Mary said, “I like it because it teaches children good morals.” I told her I thought that was a good thing, but not the main thing. I told her the reason I love The Jesus Storybook Bible is that the main thing in that Bible is the story of God’s grace to people who do not deserve it. The subtitle to the book is “Every Story Whispers His Name,” that is, the author attempts to see how every story in the Bible is a story that tells The One Story of the Bible, which is the story of God’s love for his people in the person and work of Jesus.

If you’re familiar with The Jesus Story Book Bible, you’ll know there is a refrain that’s repeated throughout, and it’s beautiful. When talking about the love of God, the refrain says, “God’s Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and, Forever, Love.” God’s love to us in Jesus is more than we could ever ask for or even imagine.

Mary, it seemed, didn’t really see the difference between a book that primarily teaches good morals and a book that primarily teaches the story of God’s love. I wonder if you know the difference. It’s not a small one. And to be sure, if King David was fuzzy or had forgotten about the main thing that makes God glorious, 2 Samuel 7 was a clear reminder to him of the good news of God’s grace.

This morning, maybe the main thing in your life is not to sort out all of your health challenges, or relationships challenges, or financial challenges, or to figure out how to deal with your problem with anger or problem with sexual temptations or materialism and greed and consumerism—all important things. Maybe instead this morning the thing you need most is what 2 Samuel 7 reminds us.

And that’s what I want to spend most of our time on this morning, what the God of Grace promises. At the end, I’ll briefly talk about how the recipients of grace respond.

1. What the God of Grace Promises, vv. 1–16

In 2 Samuel 5:11 we read of David importing the best of the best building materials from a foreign king, which in that day was cedar. Now, David is experiencing a measure of rest and peace, and this extra margin in his life leads him to ponder something. He begins to look around and think to himself, “You know what, I have things pretty good. My house, as the king of all of Israel, is a pretty nice place. It’s a 10,000 square foot home and all three floors are furnished with nothing but products from Restoration Hardware. This is nice. But there’s a problem. God’s house is tent and my house is a palace. I need to fix this. I need to do something good for God. I need to help him build his house.”

So David mentions this to Nathan, who will become important in another story later this summer. Nathan says, “That sounds like a great idea. Go for it!” But that night, Nathan hears from God, and God tells Nathan to tell David that that’s not exactly how this is going to go down. It’s going to be better.

I want to highlight some of the things mentioned, and I want to do so all under the banner of beholding the beauty of the promises of the grace of God.

First thing to notice about God’s grace in this passage is the grace of God’s humility. Yes, you heard me right: not David’s humility, but God’s. Look again at vv. 5–6.

5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling.

The point for us to see is God’s humble identification with his people. If his people are wandering about throughout the wilderness, well, how could God let himself be cooped up in a palace? God wants to be near his people and if that means dwelling in tent, so be it. The humility. This is amazing. God is saying to David, “I’m not going to live above you.” No “god” says that. But the real God does!

There is a play on word “house” throughout this passage. David speaks of a house for God meaning a house-temple, and God speaks of building a house for David in a house-dynasty. And this play on the word house is like two people arguing at a restaurant over who is going to pay the bill. Then finally, the stronger one of the two snatches the bill out of the hands of the other and says, “I’m paying this bill at this fancy place. And I’m going to eat peanut butter and jelly in the meantime. And, by the way, I’m going to pay off your credit card debt, your school loans, your car payment, AND your mortgage! And there’s not a thing you can do about it!” God says to David, “You want to build me a house, but I’m going to do everything necessary to build your house.” Oh, the humility of our God.

Perhaps you can hear some of Jesus’s humility in what God say here. In Luke’s gospel account we read of Jesus saying, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (9:58). In fact, the whole incarnation of God taking on flesh and dwelling among us should be seen as the grace of God’s humility. In John’s gospel, he says that Jesus “tabernacled among his people.” The tabernacle was the name for the tent where the ark was kept.1 Jesus tented among his people, says John.

Let me keep going. Look at v. 7 to see the grace of God in the words of God.

7 In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’

In essence God is saying, “This whole thing about the ark and a house for it, I never brought it up during the time of the judges,” which was a time period before this. This is something of a side point about God’s grace, but I don’t want to miss this point about the grace of God in the Word of God.

The point to see is that God knows exactly what he has said and exactly what he hasn’t said—and that’s a good thing for us! Sometimes all the confusion about the Bible and the different books and the different interpretations can lead us to think that our confusion about the Word of God is really God’s confusion about his own words. And it’s not! And again, that’s a good thing for us. When David hears all of this in v. 27, he notes that it’s this “revelation to your servant” that gives him to confidence to pray to God. The revelation of God gives David confidence because he knows that God knows what he’s talking about. Because God knows what he’s saying all the time, David knows that what he’s saying to David is true, and we know it’s true. The grace of God in the word of God.

Let me keep going by reading vv. 8–9 to talk about the grace of God in making David great.

8 Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. 9 And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.

In the book of Genesis, God tells Abraham that he would give Abraham a great name and that all the nations on the earth would be blessed through him (12:1–3). Here, God repeats that same idea and underscores that it will be true of David as well.

But think about this. God can make David’s name great without feeling even the slightest bit of competition. God makes David great because he knows that at the end of the day, no one will look at David and say, “Boy, David you’re awesome.” Instead, God knows that when people look at the ridiculously honored place in all of human history that David is given, people will say, “Man oh man! David’s God must be great because there ain’t anyway David could have done all of that one his own.”

Let’s keep going. Look at vv. 10–11.

10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.

God promises here to make David and all of Israel safe. No more need to lock your doors. No more need to worry about being attacked. Children can roam the neighborhood without fear—their fear or their parents fear. This is what we long for. Just the other day, one of my children told me her heart hurt. And she was asking if bad guys would ever break into our house and get us. She was anxious, just as I’m sure many in David’s day were anxious about the surrounding peoples. God promises the grace of his protection.

Let’s keep going. Look at vv. 12–16.

12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”

I’d love to spend time teasing out all of the facets of God’s grace in these verses. Let me just mention a few of them briefly.

First, in vv. 12–13, we see that death does not annul God’s grace.2 When David dies, when he will be gathered to his fathers, and his heir will live on and his house shall go forth. Death can’t annul God’s grace.

Also notice this. In vv. 14–15 there is language about fathers and sons. God pledges himself to be in a special relationship with the heir of David. And the grace of his fatherly love will extend even in his discipline. He’s not going to be an absent father. He’ll be involved. And even when he does discipline, God makes sure to note that we should never view his discipline as him taking his love from us. Our sin cannot destroy the grace of God.

And finally, notice this. On top of everything else, time will not exhaust God’s gracious promises to David. God’s promise to do great things through the offspring of David will not end—ever. They will go on forever.

In summary, David thinks, “You know, I should do something nice for God.”

  • And God says, “No, instead I give you the grace of my humility. I stoop down to raise you up.”
  • And God says, “I give you the grace of clarity about my promises. I know what I’m saying, and what I say will never fail.”
  • And God says, “I give you the grace of making your name great. When I exalt you, a poor shepherd though you were, I show the world about the power of my might.”
  • And God says, “I give you the grace of my protection. I will put my hands around you and no one will be able to snatch you out of my hands.”
  • And God says, “I give you the promise that death cannot take away my grace. When you’re in the grave, my grace to you will not end.”
  • And God says, “I give you the grace of my fatherly love. And though I discipline you, I will never disown you. You’ll always be my child.”
  • And God says, “I give you the grace of a forever promise. No amount of time will cause the brightness of my love to dim.”

This, church, is God’s Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and, Forever, Love.

2. How the Recipients of Grace Respond, vv. 17–29

Well, I said at the start that I had a two-point sermon. I guess that’s true, but they are certainly not symmetrical. Point 1 took me 20 minutes. Point 2 will take me two minutes. Point 2 is how the recipients of grace respond.

We respond to God’s grace with dumbfounded humility and inexpressible joy and certainty of hope and powerful prayers back to God.

I’m not going to re-read all of David’s response, but just look at vv. 18–19.

18 Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? 19 And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord God!

“Who am I, O Lord?” David says. And then he adds, “You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind.” What God says to David is instruction for us too. What God says to David isn’t merely for David. It’s for you and it’s for me. We are to respond with this same dumbfounded humility and inexpressible joy and certainty of hope and powerful prayers back to God.

Conclusion

There is, however, a tension in these verses. Perhaps you’ve already seen it. Let me close by addressing it. The tension is that these promises are way beyond what Solomon can fulfill, even with God’s help. You see, there are two ways to have a throne that lasts forever. You can have a son, who has a son, who has a son, who has a son, who has a son—and so on and so forth. And this keeps going on forever. That’s one way to have a forever-dynasty.

The other way, is to have a son who has a son, who has a son, who has a son, and then eventually that son has One Son who when he sits on the throne, and he never gives it up. In short, you have a son who one day is God himself.

And over and over and over again, the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament, we read that it’s this second way that God fulfills the promise of his grace. David has a son, who has a son, who has a son, who one day eventually has Jesus.

In the first chapter of Luke’s gospel we read of an angel coming to a young woman and making this statement,

30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (1:30–33)

This passage in 2 Samuel 7 is often referred to as the Davidic Covenant (cf. Psalm 89:3). It’s God’s promise to David, but it’s also his promise to us.

  • God is saying to us, “I give you the grace of my humility. I stoop down to raise you up.”
  • And God is saying to us, “I give you the grace of clarity about my promises. I know what I’m saying, and what I say will never fail.”
  • And God is saying to yo us, “I give you the grace of making the name Christian a great name. When I exalt you, a poor sinner though you were, I show the world about the power of my might.”
  • And God is saying to us, “I give you the grace of my protection. You will be safe eternally. I will put my hands around you and no one will be able to snatch you out of my hands.”
  • And God is saying to us, “I give you the promise that death cannot take away my grace. When you’re in the grave, my grace to you will not end.”
  • And God is saying to us, “I give you the grace of my fatherly love. And though I discipline you, I will never disown you. You’ll always be my child.”
  • And God is saying to us, “I give you the grace of a forever promise. No amount of time will cause the brightness of my love to dim.”

Church, this is God’s love for you us, his Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and, Forever, Love. Now live your lives with inexpressible joy and hope. Live your lives as living sacrifices, not because the Bible is first and foremost a story about moral principles, but rather because the Bible is first a story about the grace of the love of God for the people of God through the descendant of David from the tribe of Judah.

1 “Tabernacled” a literal rendering of the Greek in John 1:14, which is typically translated as “dwelt” in English Bibles.
2 This point and the next two points about God’s grace (“death does not annul it, “sin cannot destroy it,” and “time will not exhaust it”) come from Dale Ralph Davis’s commentary on 2 Samuel.

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