Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Advent (December 21, 2014)

Advent 4 – Series B (December 21, 2014)
“God Takes Up Residence” (2 Sam. 7:1-16)

Many people have a dream of building their own home one day. They can make it as elaborate or as simple as they want. How exciting to have input on every little detail about your house. How many bathrooms and bedrooms it will have. How large the windows will be. What kind of cabinets and fixtures will go in the kitchen. Will it be a rambler or a two-story home? Will it have a deck out back? How about a gazebo with a hot tub? Now we’re talking!

When God first gave instructions to Moses about the tabernacle, it was quite elaborate. Furniture covered with gold. A solid gold lampstand. Linen curtains woven with blue, purple, and scarlet yarn. Images of cherubim.

But the tabernacle was not a house. It was basically a big tent. And it was no circus inside that big tent. God himself took up residence there. Although the whole universe cannot contain God, still, he promised that his very presence would dwell in the tabernacle. Right above the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies, there God promised to meet with the people: “There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel” (Exo 25:22).

The tabernacle traveled with the Israelites in their wilderness wanderings. It crossed the Jordan River when Joshua led the people into Canaan. It stayed at Gilgal for seven years. After that it was pitched at Shiloh. After several other moves and mishaps, including the Philistines capturing the ark of the covenant for a time, David constructed a new tabernacle in Jerusalem and placed the ark inside where it belonged.

That leads us up to the account in today’s Old Testament lesson. David built a house for himself. “A house of cedar” he called it … but it was probably more like a mansion, a palace fit for a king. Whether it had a hot tub, I don’t know. But you can imagine that it was not your typical wooden house.

David looked around and thought to himself, “Here I am in a palace, but the ark of God sits in a tent. Something ought to be done about that.” Apparently, David had it in his mind to build a temple for the Lord, and Nathan the prophet put his stamp of approval on it ... that is, until the Lord had a little talk with him. The Lord had other plans. He told Nathan to tell David, “Hey, I’ve been living in a tent for a long time now. Have I ever griped about my accommodations? I never told anyone to build me a house of cedar.”

David wanted to build a house for God. But God always has a way of turning the tables on us. Right when we think that we are going to do something great for God, he reminds us that he is the one who does great things for us. And here, the Lord tells David, “David, I’m going to build a house for you.” “I will make for you a great name, like the names of the great ones of the earth. 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 … and I will give you rest over all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.” And here, of course, the word “house” does not refer to a house of cedar. It refers to a royal dynasty, a ruling family, like when we say that Queen Elizabeth is of the House of Windsor.

King Solomon, David’s son, eventually did build a house for the Lord in Jerusalem. But God’s Word today points beyond Solomon’s spectacular temple. God’s Word today says of the House of David, “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me.” Yet after Solomon, the glory of the House of David did not last very long. The kingdom was divided. Because of their idolatry, the northern kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians. Because of their unfaithfulness to the Lord, the southern kingdom was destroyed by the Babylonians, and the people were taken off into exile. Seventy years later they returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple and the walls of the city. However, there was no king from the House of David ruling.

Until, that is, when the Angel Gabriel appeared to a Virgin in Nazareth of Galilee. The Holy Spirit came upon her. The power of the Most High overshadowed her. Within the house of Mary’s womb, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity took on human flesh. Without human intervention, one little egg became a zygote, and the House of David was restored, since Mary was a descendant of David. Not only that, but Joseph, her future husband, was also of the House of David. Therefore, by birth and by Law, Jesus was truly a Son of David … THE Son of David. God took up residence inside the womb of Mary. Although the whole universe cannot contain God, his very presence dwelt in the flesh of Christ in the Virgin’s womb.

But Christ was not born to rule in Jerusalem. At his First Advent we see him hunted down by King Herod in the region of Bethlehem. At his First Advent we see him confronted by the Sanhedrin, the ruling Jewish council. At his First Advent we see his trial overseen by Pontius Pilate, the local representative of the great Roman Empire. At his First Advent we don’t see Christ wearing a jewel-encrusted crown and seated on a gold-plated throne. His crown was made of twisted thorny branches. His throne was made of two beams of wood. From there, the King’s blood was “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt. 26:28). Christ, the Son of David, was born, lived, died, and rose again for you. And when he ascended into heaven, King Jesus of the House of David took his rightful place as King of all Creation. He now rules and reigns for the good of his Church. He is in control, even when things seem out of control … even as he was completely in control while dying for your sins and mine.

In Christ, God has built a house for you. Through Baptism, your sins were washed away, and you became a member of the household of God. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2 that we were previously “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ … So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household.” You reside in God’s house … and God takes up residence in you. Although the whole universe cannot contain God, his very presence dwells among you and in you, as Paul concludes in Ephesians 2, “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

God dwelt in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle. The Virgin’s womb became the Holy of Holies as God dwelt there in the flesh of Jesus. The Cross of Calvary became the Holy of Holies, as the flesh of Jesus hung there for the life of the world. And this altar becomes the Holy of Holies every time bread and wine are set apart by God’s Word and promise to deliver the true body and blood of the Son of David to us. God takes up residence right here, and delivers life, forgiveness, and salvation when you eat and drink with faith in those words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sins.” As Luther said in the Small Catechism, “These words, along with the bodily eating and drinking, are the main thing in the Sacrament. Whoever believes these words has exactly what they say: ‘forgiveness of sins.’”

God has built a house for us and by faith in Christ we reside in that house and God resides in us. He richly and daily forgives and feeds us in this house. What, then, shall we do with those words in our text, where God promises a place for his people where they would be safe from their enemies? If that “place” is the land, then God’s promise is not true. After Solomon’s reign ended, the people were continually pestered and persecuted from enemies without and within, as the people living in the land of Israel still are today. The land is not the thing. There is a greater land, a greater house, an eternal one, an everlasting kingdom where God’s people will be undisturbed forever from their enemies of sin, death, and the devil. There is a house waiting for us in eternity, as Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms … I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).

And in that place, at Christ’s Second Advent, we will see the Son of David on his throne, and we will call to mind the words of St. John’s Revelation, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3-4).


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