God’s Perspective on David’s Proposal
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God’s Perspective on David’s Proposal

2 Samuel 7:1-7  (ID: 3477)

With his kingdom established and enjoying a time of peace, David proposed to build a better dwelling place for the ark of God. Initially, Nathan the prophet affirmed the king’s plan—yet his well-meaning support failed to consider the Lord’s perspective. God is sovereign; He cannot be contained and doesn’t need man’s agendas. As Alistair Begg points out, this key passage unlocks Scripture’s whole story line. By God’s hand and for His glory, David’s dynasty, and ultimately Christ’s eternal kingdom, would be established.


Sermon Transcript:

I invite you to turn with me to 2 Samuel and to chapter 7, and I’m going to read from the first verse to the seventeenth verse. Two Samuel 7 and beginning from verse 1:

“Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, 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.’ And Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.’

“But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, ‘Go and tell my servant David, “Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? 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. 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?’” 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. 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. 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, 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. 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. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 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, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.”’ In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.”

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Eternal God, we thank you that our prayer has been sung to you. We simply add our amen. May it be so: that we hear your voice, far beyond the voice of any mere man, for this is our great need. And we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

Well, I wonder, if we set ourselves the task of putting together a list—let’s say the top ten list of what we might regard as the most significant chapters in the Bible—I would imagine that amongst that list—and probably we would have a diversity of lists if we all set about it on our own—but probably we would have in there Genesis chapter 3, the account of the fall of man. We’d probably have in it Isaiah 53, that great prophetic passage on the atoning work of the Son. Some of us, I think, would have John 1. Others would have John chapter 3. Many of us would have Romans chapter 8: “[What] shall separate us from the love of [God]?”[1] Some of us, I think, would include 1 Corinthians 15, the great chapter on the resurrection, and so on. Many, I think, would want also to include Revelation chapter 21, that great and glorious picture of a new heaven and a new earth.

But I wonder if any of us would actually have included in our top ten the chapter which we have just begun to read just now, 2 Samuel chapter 7. I’m not sure that I would have had it in my list either, until I began to study it more seriously, in a more focused way. I mean, I’m familiar with it, but I have never actually preached on it, and therefore, I’ve never really studied it to the degree that I can. And I’ve been quite staggered to find out how many people of great significance and worth, both as Bible teachers and as theologians, clearly have 2 Samuel 7 in the very heart of that top ten list. Our friend John Woodhouse says, “There are few [chapters] in the … Bible more important and [more] exciting than 2 Samuel [chapter] 7.”[2] Now, I read part of it, and you can read the rest of it on your own, and you can conclude as you choose whether that is hyperbole or whether it actually is the case.

Here in this chapter you have a key which unlocks the entire storyline of the Bible.

God’s promise to David, God’s covenant with his servant David in this chapter… And you may want just to look down again to verse 16, where God says to David, “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” Now, we’ve already alluded to this in our singing this morning, where, in the opening song, we sang, “There David’s greater Son has fixed his royal throne.”[3] So, we are already giving indication in our singing of our understanding of the significance of what God promises here to David. In fact, it would be fair to say that what we have here in this chapter is not simply the key to understanding all of 1 and 2 Samuel, as it is, but in actual fact, here in this chapter you have a key which unlocks the entire storyline of the Bible—the whole story of the Bible, and insofar as God’s promise to Abraham to put together a people of his own then finds its focus and its fulfillment and its reinforcement in David and in his kingship, and David in turn points us forward to his greater Son—namely, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the King who has come and who is the King who is coming. Now, all of that is founded in and focused in this particular chapter.

Simon Winchester wrote a very helpful book entitled The Meaning of Everything. He was referring to the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. But in borrowing from that title, it is fair for us to say that this chapter, 2 Samuel 7, opens the door to the meaning of everything—not just the meaning of everything that is in the Bible but the meaning of everything in the entire panoramic history of the world. Now, I can’t set it up any better than that. This is a major chapter. And therefore, it is incumbent upon us to take time to study it. Now, of course, you mustn’t take my word for this. You need to examine the text on your own and see if these things are actually so.[4]

We won’t go further than the seventh verse this morning, and we will look at these first seven verses in two parts: first of all, in verses 1–3, what we refer to as David’s proposal; and then, in verses 4–7, God’s perspective. In fact, I gave to our study this morning the title “God’s Perspective on David’s Proposal.”

The Context

Now, you will notice the context is given to us immediately at the top of the chapter: “Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies…” That, then, is the context for all that takes place. If your Bible is open as mine, you will have before you 5:11. When we studied that, we noted that “Hiram [the] king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and [sent] cedar trees, [and] carpenters and masons,” and they “built … a house” for David. And it is this house in which David now finds himself living.

I think what we’re supposed to understand is that at this point in the history of things, David is established. The battles are over, at least for the time being; the ark, which we have just considered, has made its way now, safely and eventually, to Jerusalem; and the family feuds which have cropped up again and again are behind him for a while. And you will notice that in these first three verses, he is never referred to as “David.” He’s referred to as “the king” each time: “Now when the king lived in his house…” Verse 2: “[And] the king said to Nathan …. And Nathan said to the king…”

So, try and allow this to settle in your mind. The Lord has now given him rest. He is in a secure position. He is, if you like, in a successful spot. He’s able to reflect on all that has gone before and to realize all the victories and triumphs that he’s enjoyed. And he recognizes—at least the narrator understands—that all of this has happened because of the Lord’s goodness to him. And it is his rest, the rest of God, that he enjoys at this point—which, of course, raises the question: How will he cope with this? How will David do, given that he is no longer doing what he’s good at doing? Because we have observed him: he’s good at running, he’s good at fighting, he’s good at hiding, he’s good in battle, and so on. But how about sitting? How about being settled? How about sitting in his house? How about being able to look out, look back, look around, and say, “You know, things are actually pretty good at the moment”?

Now, is it in that context, given the person that he is, that he finds himself saying, “You know, I think I’m gonna have to do something”? If you’re an action kind of person, it will be a great challenge to you to learn how to sit. It’s one of the reasons some of us don’t do so well in retirement, because now we have been removed from all of the engagement that has given sense and a semblance of order to our very existence. And then, all of a sudden, it becomes somewhat quiet. The battles are o’er, the children have moved on, and we find ourselves just sitting across the breakfast table from one another and perhaps at least thinking, if not actually saying, “So, what are we going to do now?” Now, I take it that David was thinking along those lines. And that is why he decides that he’s going to have to do something.

Anna Laetitia Waring wrote a number of hymns. Nobody really knew much about her. She has a wonderful hymn that begins,

Father, I know that all my life
Is portioned out for me,
… the changes that are sure to come
I do not fear to see;
… I ask you for a present mind
Intent on pleasing thee.

And then a third verse—and I thought of this verse as I allowed my mind to run along these lines with David. She writes,

I would not have the restless will
That hurries to and fro,
Seeking for some great thing to do
Or secret thing to know.[5]

Now, obviously, she says, “I recognize in myself that there is a sort of incipient tendency to want to charge around here and there.” And so she says, “I don’t want to have that kind of restless will that hurries to and fro. I don’t want to be the person who’s always seeking for some great thing to do or to be on the inside of some significant secret.”

Now, again, we just have to let the text say what it says. Because as the story unfolds—and if you know the story, you know this is true—in relatively few verses, we’re going to discover, if it’s in any doubt here, that David doesn’t do well with down time. David does not do well sitting on the roof, looking around. And few of us do.

David’s Proposal

Now, this is the context. This is the context. And the context gives way to this conversation—a conversation, a dialogue, which takes place between the king and Nathan. And Nathan emerges somewhat abruptly here. We will see more of him later on. But now, in this conversation, David takes the initiative: “[And] 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.’”

David doesn’t do well with down time. David does not do well sitting on the roof, looking around. And few of us do.

Now, what he apparently is doing is sensing the incongruity of the situation. We know all that has been involved in bringing the ark from the house of Abinadab and so on and into its place in Jerusalem. In 6:17, we were told there that with the dancing and the leaping having taken place, verse 17, “they brought in the ark of the Lord,” they “set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it. And [there he] offered burnt offerings,” and so on. And David understood what was being done there: that the ark was the symbol of the power and of the presence of God. Through all of the history of the people of God, with the tabernacle, and the ark contained, and the Law of God contained in the ark, all of the people understood what that was about.

And so it is that David, apparently recognizing the disparity between where he’s put the ark and where he finds himself—he doesn’t actually say, “I want to build a house for God.” You will notice that. No, but it is clear by way of inference. And we recognize that in the response of Nathan initially, and then in the clarity of the word of God which comes to David through Nathan.

Now, it’s quite interesting, isn’t it? I mean, if you’ve been to Assisi, you will have been there in that little cave where the little fountain is and the requisite little bird where Saint Francis was spending his time. And I thought of Saint Francis here when I realized the inference from the text. David says, “It’s somewhat incongruous that I am in this house and the ark of God is in the tent,” but he doesn’t say, “So I think I shall downgrade myself to a tent.” No, he’s not planning on a downgrade for himself, but he’s planning for an upgrade for the ark.

Now, it’s not difficult to see the progression here, is it? First of all, the king is in his house. He has rest from his enemies. Everything is settled. And yet, David himself is unsettled. It doesn’t really seem right.

And in that context, Nathan, picking up on what David is inferring, says to the king, “Go, [and] do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.” “Go for it! You’re the man. You’re the Lord’s man. The Lord is with you.” That phrase, of course, is going to come again in another context later on.

Now, we’ve no reason to doubt that David’s desires and his motives are anything other than good. And there is no reason, either, to assume that Nathan’s response is anything other than well-meant, right? Nathan is a good man. He’s a prophet of God. And we’re going to see later on that he is able to make the tough call, that he is able to take on David. But perhaps in this instance he’s a little too quick to simply affirm the king’s proposal: “I’m sitting here, and the ark is over there.” He says, “Yeah, you’re the man. You’re the man. Yeah, that’s good. Go for it!”

Now, I’m indebted to my friend Ralph Davis for a very simple but important observation at this point in his commentary. And he says here we ought to acknowledge the limitation of the servants of God.[6] “The limitation of the servants of God”—that because somebody is the prophet of God, he has limitations. So, for example, we won’t go back through the whole of the chapters that we’ve done, but if you remember Eli, way, way back at the beginning of 1 Samuel, in relationship to Hannah, and you remember that Hannah got herself in a dreadful state: she was talking and mumbling and crying, and she was a mess! And Eli got it wrong, and he assumed that she was drunk.[7] The servant of God got it wrong. Samuel got it wrong when he called for the sons of Jesse and decided from his own perspective that Eliab was the obvious choice as the king.[8] He was wrong. David got it wrong, you will remember, when he decided that the best thing he could do would be to take out Nabal and be done with him once and for all, and it falls to Abigail to intervene on behalf of the husband that she couldn’t really stand.[9] But the point is that in each case, the servants of God got it wrong.

Now, there is a salutary warning in this. It is a reminder of what we say to one another regularly—at least I hope we do: namely, that the best of men are men at best. The same is true for ladies, for women. Therefore, we better choose our heroes carefully, and we better resist any tendency to deify those whose ministry we appreciate, whose instruction we benefit from, and whose prophetic word we pay attention to. And the reason for that is because if we get that wrong, it will be both harmful to them and of no help to us. In another context, I would give you chapter and verse; I would give you names, and I would give you places. But you will be applying it in your own mind already.

We’d better choose our heroes carefully, and we’d better resist any tendency to deify those whose ministry we appreciate, whose instruction we benefit from, and whose prophetic word we pay attention to.

Here’s the facts: Nathan’s support was well-meaning, but it was missing God’s perspective. It is always the perspective of God that we need in relationship to the unfolding of the purposes of God.

God’s Perspective

So let’s spend the balance of our time, then, there. If the proposal is as we’ve outlined it, what is God’s perspective?

Well, we come to this in light of all that we’ve known before. You remember God says, on that occasion when Samuel got it wrong, “The Lord sees not as man sees.”[10] And, of course, that was the difficulty there with Samuel. He looked at it, and he said, “Well, it makes perfect sense. He’s tall, he’s the biggest, he’s the oldest, and so on. And therefore, it just seems perfectly reasonable that that would be the case.” And God says, “No, no, you’ve got it wrong.”

Now, as the prophet of God—which is what Nathan is—as the prophet of God, he is responsible to understand God’s perspective and then convey it to David. And, of course, God is concerned, and you will notice, verse 4, “But that same night”—in other words, immediately—“the word of the Lord came to Nathan.” God has already intervened, in the way in which the ark was going to be brought up to Jerusalem. We saw that last time, didn’t we? “I’ll just put it on a cart. We’ll be able to move along directly.” God intervenes. The whole operation is shut down for three months, in order that the perspective of God might be clearly discovered.[11]

Now, I can just imagine, and perhaps you can too: “That same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan.” Don’t you find that when the events of the day have begun to dim, you reflect on things? Now, it says down in verse 17 that it was in the context of a vision, and therefore, we understand that. But in whatever framework it took place, Nathan became aware of the fact that he was actually pretty quick to affirm David in what seemed like an okay plan. You gotta be careful, again, when people want to get on your side, that you have to exercise your own caution sometimes. “Come on, you can go for it! Let’s go for it.” Now Nathan is in his bed, and he’s saying to himself as the evening shadows fall… And as he ponders that—notice the phrase—“the word of the Lord came.” “The word of the Lord came”—came to Nathan in a vision, verse 17 says, but “the word of the Lord came.” We don’t need to spend our time trying to figure out how it came. It is the fact that it came that really matters, all right? And it came.

In actual fact, that phrase, “The word of the Lord came,” only occurs here and in one other place: back in 1 Samuel 15, where “the word of the Lord came to Samuel[, saying,] ‘I regret that I … made Saul king.’”[12] It then comes in the final chapter of 2 Samuel here, in chapter 24, when God pronounces his judgment on his servant David for having conducted a census which was beyond the parameters that God had planned.[13] So in other words, we’re supposed to make sure that we understand that this intervention of God in this moment, as in the previous situation and in the one that then follows, is an intervention in a crucial moment with a vital message. It’s a crucial moment, and it is a vital message: “I want you to go and tell my servant David, thus says the Lord.” “Thus says the Lord.”

Now, you will notice that he is “my servant David.” He’s “the king,” “king,” “king” in verses 1–3. He is “my servant” in verse 5. What a privilege, to be the servant of the Lord! David understands what a privilege it is. Back when we get to verse 18 in this chapter, David goes in and sits before the Lord, and he says, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?” “I know. I know that this is a wonderful thing.” Remember when the angel comes to Mary and announces all that is to happen, what is her response? “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”[14] No, he comes now to the servant of the Lord with the word of the Lord.

Now, let’s not miss this. Let’s not miss this. The role of Nathan is not just to affirm whatever David comes up with. The role of Nathan is to declare the word of God. The role of the prophet of God is to speak the word that the Lord has spoken. Get that? That the role of the prophet of God is to speak the word that the Lord has spoken. The prophet does not come up with his own words. Those were the false prophets. No, the prophet of God takes what God has said and then says it to the one to whom they’re sent.

Now, if you think about that, what does that mean today? Well, what it means today is that the person who exercises, if you like, a prophetic ministry is exercising a ministry not of ideas that he or she has dreamt up and strange notions that he propounds—which is, of course, not uncommon on religious TV and elsewhere—but no, it is to take the Word of God which has been spoken by God and tell the people what God said. That’s the role of the prophet: to take the Word that God has spoken, and then to say, “This is the Word that God has spoken.” So that is the task of the Bible teacher. Say you have questions today about life: “Here is the Word that God has spoken, about death and so on. Here is the Word about marriage, about anything. Here is the Word that God has spoken.”

The prophet does not come up with his own words. Those were the false prophets. No, the prophet of God takes what God has said and then says it to the one to whom they’re sent.

Now, those who’ve been effective in Bible teaching ministry have understood that, just as Nathan had to understand it. You remember Newton, of “Amazing Grace,” in the eighteenth century—and I quote this often, because I want to remind myself of it. He says to his congregation, “I [count] it my honour and happiness that I preach to a free people, who have the Bible in their hands.”[15] “Who have the Bible in their hands.” You cannot have an effective Bible teaching ministry if people don’t have their Bibles. You’re not here to listen to somebody come up with a few bright ideas or observations or insights. We together are students of what God’s Word has said. The ascended Christ has given gifts to the church, and part of those gifts are pastors and teachers. The role of the pastor and teacher is to go in the kitchen the way somebody goes in the kitchen and work hard with the menu and the food and finally put it on the table in a way that can be edifying and edible. And so Newton says, and so it is. “[You have] the Bible in [your] hands. [And] to your Bibles I appeal. I entreat, I charge you to receive nothing upon my word, any farther than I [can] prove it from the word of God.” And then he says, shouting out from the eighteenth century, from the 1700s, he says, “And bring every preacher, and every sermon that you hear, to that same standard.”[16]

“I’m in a house. The ark is over here. Maybe we ought to do something about that. Perhaps it’s time for me to do something significant.” Immediately, that night, the word of the Lord came to Nathan: “And you go to him and say, ‘This is what the Lord says.’” God’s Word—nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.

Now, what is it that he says? Well, there’s a rhetorical question there at the end of verse 5: “Would you build me a house to dwell in?” “Would you build a house for me?” It’s interesting, isn’t it? Because David is actually talking about a place for the ark. Well, how are we to understand that? Well, the Lord doesn’t even mention the ark. He doesn’t say, “Are you thinking about building a house for the ark?” No, he says, “Would you build a house for me?”

Well, of course! Because the symbol is of God’s presence and of God’s power. And the Lord is understanding this. It was common for pagans at that time—and it remains common in cultures of the world—for people who are thankful to their gods with a small g to build big edifices as an expression of thanksgiving, or to make a statement about their relationship with their gods with a small g. But that’s not what’s going to happen here.

Now, what is the Lord saying here? “You want to talk about incongruity?” he says. “What about this: you building me a house to dwell in?” Now, of course, what happens is that it would not be David that builds any structure, but it would be God who makes David a house. And we can only mention this, and we must return to it, because this is part of the key to understanding the whole chapter. If you look down at verse 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.” “Make you a house.” “Would you build a house for me? I am the Lord who will make you a house.”

Now, we will never understand this chapter until we recognize the two ways in which “house” is used. “House” in the mind of David is a place, a structure, a building. God, you will notice, the Lord, does not say, “I will build you a house.” The Lord says, “I will make you a house.” And the Lord is referring not to a building but to a dynasty. He is referring to the house of David. He is referring to the house that will be the home, ultimately, of great David’s greater Son. And so Nathan is charged with this responsibility.

And indeed, later on… And incidentally, there is no mention of temple here. There is no mention of temple until after David dies. So those of us who’ve been familiar, we’re reading 2 Samuel 7 and reading into it all kinds of notions and connotations, we need to divest ourselves of that for a little while, at least, to examine the text. Because, you remember, even when Solomon puts together the temple, what does he say? He says, “[Lord,] behold, heaven … the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less [the] house that I have built!”[17]

“Would you try and localize me in a building? No, David, I’m gonna make a house for you.” I presume that this was somewhere in Paul’s mind when he addresses the Athenians on Mars Hill. And remember, he says to them, “The God who made the world and everything in it … does not [dwell] in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything.”[18] “You’re right, David. It is an incongruous thought.”

“But,” he says, “furthermore,” in verse 6, “think about it: I haven’t lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day. For I’ve been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. I haven’t lived in a building,” he says, “for the last some three hundred years.” Now, you remember that: the ark of the covenant, in the tabernacle, a tented space. And as the people move, as they go in their pilgrim status, God, he says, “I haven’t been stuck in one place. I haven’t lived in a house. My people have been unsettled. Why would I settle down when they’re unsettled?”

“My Lord knows the way through the wilderness, [and] all I have to do is follow.” There’s “strength for today.” It’s “mine always, and all that I need for tomorrow,” because the “Lord knows the way through the wilderness.”[19] How does he know the way through the wilderness? Because he’s gone through the wilderness. There’s nothing special about this space, except that it is a space in which those who are in Christ gather in the wonder of the fact that God inhabits all of everywhere. And he’s as much in your office as in your car as in your bathroom as in your gymnasium as in any other place. “You’re gonna build a house for me? I will create a house for you.”

“Why have you never built me a house?” He says, “I never once said that.” Verse 7: “In all the places where I’ve moved with all the people of Israel, let me ask you a question.” And incidentally, this is the word of the Lord in the vision to Nathan in the night. Nathan is processing all of this, and now he’s going to say to David. “In all the places where I moved with all the people of Israel, think about it: Did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’” He says, “No, I never, ever did. I never did it.”

Now, in light of that, verse 8: “Now, therefore, thus shall you say to my servant David.” And he’s gonna take it on from here. And we’ll stop here. But you’ll notice, if you read ahead, all of the initiative comes from God. Immediately: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you…” Verse 9: “I[’ve] been with you.” Verse 9b: “I will make … you…” In other words, if we put it just in common terms: “David, there’s no reason for you to sit around in that place that the king of Tyre has built for you, trying to figure out some way that you can do something for me. It’s an insult to even consider it. But David, remember, you were a shepherd boy, and I came for you. You were a weak-kneed rascal, and look at what I’ve done with you. Here is the wonder of it all: your significance lies in the fact that you’re my servant.” And what he’s going to go on to do is to say, “Once you understand this perspective, then you will be able to rest in my promise”—a promise that, as I said to you at the beginning and conclude now in the same way, a promise… Such a promise that it shapes human history. Such a promise that it extends from eternity to eternity.

For God determines, “I will have a people who are my very own.” He calls Abram out of the Ur of the Chaldees, a pagan family, and he says, “And you, out of your seed, the nations will be blessed.”[20] You fast-forward all through time, and now he says to David, “And David, you, in this great panorama of my purposes, I will make for you a house. And on your throne will sit one who will reign forever and ever and ever.” If you’ve ever sung the Messiah on a Christmas week and you’ve said to yourself, “What is it I’m singing here?”—“And he shall reign forever and ever. And he shall reign forever and ever.” Who is this? It is the one who is promised in 2 Samuel chapter 7.

Understand everything in light of this: the departure of one president, the arrival of another; the in the European Union or out of the European Union; the great missiles that are pointed towards us from North Korea; the issues of Iran; the concerns of the Middle East. Everything! Everything is actually framed by this chapter that most of us would never, ever have considered for a moment to put in the top ten of significance.

David had a good idea, but it wasn’t what God had in mind. David wanted to do something significant, but his significance was in being God’s servant. What was the significance of the donkey? You ever think about the donkeys in Jerusalem—if that one donkey was like, “Hey, you know, I’m a very special donkey”? Yeah. What made him special? The one who was riding on his back. No, his significance is in his servitude.

Christian discipleship is not a glandular condition. God is not in need of our ideas. He’s not in need of our agendas. He doesn’t need for us to sit in our settled condition, dreaming up plans. God sets the program, God establishes the agenda, and God will be glorified in it all.

And let me just say to you: let’s be cautious when it comes to our instincts and our initiatives. Christian discipleship is not a glandular condition. God is not in need of our ideas. He’s not in need of our agendas. He doesn’t need for us to sit in our settled condition, dreaming up plans. God sets the program, God establishes the agenda, and God will be glorified in it all.

Think about all the years that are represented leading up to this moment in 2 Samuel 7. Think about all the years that are represented in the history of Christianity in the United States. Think about those who come behind us. It’s a strange thought, isn’t it, that if we really want to do a good turn for our children and our grandchildren, we better make sure that we help them to understand 2 Samuel chapter 7? Who would ever have imagined such a thing?

O God, we want to be students of your Word. We want to be servants of your Word. We want to be those who set aside our own plans and our agendas, no matter how bright our ideas may appear to be and no matter how many people tell us that they’re a good idea. God, grant to us your perspective. Grant that we might rest in your promises, that we might covet your presence, no matter where we are or how we are. Thank you for watching over your people. Thank you that you have plans and purposes foreordained still for your people. Thank you for your Word. Amen.


[1] Romans 8:35 (ESV).

[2] John Woodhouse, 2 Samuel: Your Kingdom Come, Preaching the Word, ed. R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015), 197.

[3] Isaac Watts, “How Pleased and Blest Was I” (1719).

[4] See Acts 17:11.

[5] Anna Laetitia Waring, “Father, I Know That All My Life” (1850). Language modernized.

[6] Dale Ralph Davis, 2 Samuel: Out of Every Adversity, Focus on the Bible (Fearn, UK: Christian Focus, 1999), 84.

[7] See 1 Samuel 1:12–13.

[8] See 1 Samuel 16:6.

[9] See 1 Samuel 25:1–38.

[10] 1 Samuel 16:7 (ESV).

[11] See 2 Samuel 6:1–11.

[12] 1 Samuel 15:10–11 (ESV).

[13] See 2 Samuel 24:11.

[14] Luke 1:38 (ESV).

[15] John Newton, “Of a Living and a Dead Faith,” in The Works of John Newton (1820; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1985), 2:558.

[16] Newton, 2:558.

[17] 1 Kings 8:27 (ESV).

[18] Acts 17:24–25 (ESV).

[19] “My Lord Knows the Way,” traditional children’s song.

[20] Genesis 22:18 (paraphrased).

Copyright © 2021, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.