Most pastors are not great building project managers. But every pastor at one time or another has had to go through building campaigns. The truth is, though, very few of us who have gone through a building campaign sit around dreaming about going through another one!
One of the things that must be done in a building campaign is appearing before the county commissioners to have a hearing for the permit to build. They want to know all the details. Then it goes from there, in some places, to a community hearing.
I remember the tension in the congregation in Kansas as the residents met for a hearing. I was preaching through a series about “The Church on the Move” at that time, taking much of it from Exodus. I recall that the congregation was ready to cross the Jordan and move in to the Promised Land.
Well, anyway, I think about those times because the prophet Samuel gives us a peek into a hearing that was held for a building permit. The person asking was David. But the hearing wasn’t before either the country commission or a community association; it was before God.
The Bible says that “The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps” (
There are three movements in
I. David’s Quiet Time
The passage begins with a contemplative King, enjoying the fruit of peacefulness. David, in fact, was enjoying the blessing of God. His kingdom is safe, and he is now residing in a splendid palace. I thank God for those times in life don’t you? But what do you do with them? We often forget to enjoy ourselves. We work to live quiet and peace-able lives like Paul tells us to do in
So David tells the prophet, Nathan, and he encourages him. Most of the time when a layman comes to a preacher and says, “The Lord has moved upon me to give a large sum to the building of a new church” we always thing it is a good idea.
“Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.”
Nathan is not here prophesying. He is just a good and decent believer who longs for the same things that David longs for.
Now, you have already heard that David isn’t going to exactly get what he proposed. Remember, “Man proposes — God disposes.” And we might be tempted to think that David had a really bad idea. But, I see here that David was dreaming big for God. God is going to correct it, refine it, and unveil something glorious to David. But, it starts with David’s quiet time. We hear a lot about the need for Christians to have a quiet time. Good. Because it is true. In the New Testament, Peter saw the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy on the Day of Pentecost: “‘In the last days it will be,’ God declares, ‘that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams'” (
The Church does that when the Church is filled with the glory of God in Christ. We get a glimpse of God’s glory in His Word and through His Spirit. We get a glimpse, I trust, during public worship, but also in our quiet times. When in our own private prayer closet we encounter the risen Christ. When we see Him, know Him, experience His grace and love, we begin to dream dreams and see visions. Not in the charismatic sense, mind you, but with our very souls aflame with one holy passion for God.
I don’t go to every Long Range Planning Committee meeting. I prefer to allow the men and women of that committee to do their work without the minister there. This is the work of the congregation, and I want to be there to encourage them, to support them, and occasionally to cast a vision of the glory of Christ as it pertains to buildings.
I went to the last meeting. I went because I wanted to tell them something; something that I want to now tell you and it is this: if you go to Europe and see the magnificent cathedrals there, you are not seeing a testimony to the genius of the clergy. You are seeing the fulfilled dreams of laymen. You are seeing the vision that people had who lived in that city or village. They wanted to build God a house of worship. So they sacrificed, planned, organized, and sometimes over many generations built a church structure to the glory of God. The same always is true. It may be that great preachers fill their pulpits, but the landscape that is graced by steeples and towers reaching up to heaven are the result of dreamers and visionaries in the pew. In that sense, you are my heroes.
But the thing I want you to see is that David was dreaming. There will come a time when David should have been at war, and stayed home and he dreamed about something very illicit. The same saints who dream of God can dream of sin, but that is another sermon. It is enough in
The second movement follows, and I call this movement David’s Permit Hearing.
II. David’s Permit Hearing
There is little light between
I want you to consider that it is a blessing when God cuts off our plans quickly. What we see as dashed dreams are God’s way of preserving us for something better. God is gracious when He changes our plans. Of course, we can’t pretend to know all of the ways of the Lord, but we clearly see here that God steps in quickly to stop the action. And that is a grace.
Now what does God say? What is the rendering of the Lord concerning these plans?
1) God’s greatness and God’s glory are not dependent upon David’s dream (
The bottom line of God here is this: “I do the building son, not you. I will make the plans, son, not you. My glory is not dependent upon your dreams.”
We are given a very fundamental and basic theological lesson by the Lord. It is this: the freedom and independence of God. The importance of that statement is that God is God and we are not. He is the initiator. He is the sovereign Lord who builds up and brings down. We must be careful when we pray that we remember this.
C.S. Lewis reminds us that prayer is simply “a lesser being making a petition to a Greater Being.” When we pray we must not think that when we ask for something God must do that. It won’t fly with the Almighty. He is free. His ways are not our ways. His understanding is so much higher than ours. Paul wrote: “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (
The answer to David is not, however, “No”. God takes David’s dreams and vision for God’s glory and perfects them. He is going to do something even greater than David imagined.
When I was an intern the church I was ministering in had some troubles and lost all of their staff in one day. They brought in a wise old interim, Dr. Donald Hoke. Dr. Hoke called the church and asked if they could borrow a minister for a while. Being the lowest form of clergy on staff, I was loaned out. And how thankful I am! I learned a great deal from Dr. Hoke. I got to observe a wise and experienced shepherd at his best. He began by asking all staff, from secretaries to all clergy, to memorize
Everywhere he went he focused on that verse. He said either we can sink in our estimation of what will happen, or rise to the mind of God. He said that we could either aim low and hit our target, or aim high and get close to God’s.
David thought that God needed a house. He was dreaming. Nathan was dreaming. But they were too small. They dreamed too little. Sometimes its better to just latch on to the great theological truth of the Bigness of God and the Freedom of God and unleash that thought in our lives. I’m happy to say that church grew under Dr. Hoke’s interim. The church made it back to the land of the living. They eventually healed, called another pastor, filled the staff, and today have become one of the most dynamic churches in our denomination. But It started with focusing on the greatness of God.
The answer, I say again, is not just “No”. It’s “exceeding abundantly above all” that David and Nathan could ask or think. But it was “according to the power’ that was working in them”. It started with that quiet time. Look what it leads to: The Lord shows David that …
2. God will glorify Himself through something more eternal than brick and mortar. (
The Lord turns the tables on David. It seems that hearings for building permits always bring some sort of surprise, some amendment to the original plans.
You want to talk about construction projects? God tells David “you know nothing about building plans. I don’t need a house. You do. You and the world need a place that is safe.” He says Israel will be planted in a place of their own and move no more, nor shall the sons of wickedness oppress them anymore. He says that David is going to have a house, a kingdom that will come from his line.
The protection and permanence for God’s people are not found in a building or a physical location or in a security system; they are found in Jesus Christ. Everything else is really idolatry. This is the message of the early Church: “The God who made the world and everything in it, He who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things” (
This was the message of
What God is doing in
This is the promise of our Lord Jesus. David went to God for a building permit. He leaves with a promise of a Savior. David went to God with a vision for a house. God gives him a vision of an eternal kingdom.
III. God’s Answer to Our Proposals Is Always the Same
God’s answer to David is not unusual in Scripture or in our Christian experience. God’s answer to our proposals is always the same: “Jesus.” He is always God’s response to man’s need, man’s dreams, even what man desires to do for God. God will not accept what you want to do for Him. He has done it all for you in His Son. I once read that a certain theologian made a mistake in his theology because as his critic put it, “His Christology was too large.” I don’t think you can make too much of Christ.
St. Paul, too, had a great Christology: “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you … was not ‘Yes and No’; but in Him it is always ‘Yes’. For in Him every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes’. For this reason it is through Him that we say the ‘Amen’, to the glory of God” (
Paul was saying that Jesus is the great “Yes” of God. To that we say “Amen”. Do you want to glorify God? Buildings can’t do it. Plans of greatness can’t do it. Your good works, your righteousness, your giftedness can’t do it. God will always reject those proposals. Only one thing will be accepted by God, according to God Himself. I read it again: “For this reason it is through Him that we say the ‘Amen’, to the glory of God” (
Jesus is the Final Blueprint for our salvation as well as for God’s own glory. The Lord’s answer to David’s hopeful plans remains His answer to people’s hopeless pleas: Jesus — God’s Yes.
And that is an Approval we can all live with … forever. Amen.