Text: 2 Samuel 7:1-16
Date: Advent IV + 12/18/11
When St. Luke reports of the visit of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary he says that Mary was “betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph,” and adds the important detail, “of the house of David.” Furthermore, the angel’s announcement includes the prediction that Jesus “will reign over the house of Jacob forever.”
Today’s sermon title points to the double use of the word “house” in our Old Testament reading telling of the great King David “dwelling in a house of cedar,” but the ark of God dwelling in (or should I use today’s protest language and say “occupying”?) a tent on the one hand, and the dynasty, lineage or family tree of David on the other. We are taught to make the distinction in the phrase (at least as old as Benjamin Franklin), “a house is not a home.” Franklin said a house becomes a home when “it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.” We generally make the distinction between house and home more simply between a structure and the family living in it.
But you will notice the sermon title, “H O U S E,” is printed in graphic imitation of the title of the FOX television network’s award winning medical drama series starring James Hugh Calum Laurie OBE (Order of the British Empire) or simply Hugh Laurie. And chances are that you’ve probably seen an episode as the 2012 Guinness book of World Records has designated “H O U S E” as “the world’s most popular current television program, watched by a whopping 81.8 million people in 66 countries.” But did you know that the name of the lead character, Dr. Gregory House, and therefore the name of the program, is itself a double entendre, “a subtle homage” of the writers to the fictional British detective Sherlock Holmes. Get it? “Holmes,” “House”! And this even extends to their “sidekicks.” As there was Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, so in the television series it is Dr. Gregory House and Dr. James Wilson. So the phrase becomes, “a HOUSE is not a HOLMES.”
But this was precisely the confusion in the conversation of King David with the prophet Nathan and God Himself. David was concerned about an appropriate structure to house the ark of God as His dwelling place. God was concerned with the extension of His promise of the Messiah, a Savior. You will recall that promise was first made in the most general of terms to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, saying that one of Eve’s offspring will contend victoriously over the devil (Gen 3:15). The promise was defined and refined more in Genesis 12 as we are told He would be the offspring of Abraham. Then through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob the line continued through Ruth, Obed, and Jesse of Bethlehem, the father of David. So it was the promise and prediction that the Savior would be of the house, that is, the genealogy or lineage or family tree of David. That’s why the phrase “of the house of David” is so important in St. Luke’s narrative.
But the Messiah was not merely to be identified and found as a descendant of David. The Messiah’s heritage as “Son of David” highlights a specific and important aspect of the salvation and kingdom He brings. That aspect is peace. And this is signaled in two ways here in Second Samuel.
That this is a major step forward in God’s plan of salvation, first, seems to be indicated by God’s name spoken through the prophet Nathan.
Because God had given David rest from all his enemies, only now did it enter David’s mind to build in Jerusalem a more permanent building, house or temple as God’s dwelling place rather than the temporary and portable tent that had served up until now. And he was on to something. The concept of rest is important, as we shall see. When he first mentions the idea to Nathan the prophet, Nathan says to the king, “Go.” Literally, “Quite right! Do it, for the Lord (Yahweh) is with you.”
But then follows the vision and instruction to Nathan by Yahweh, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says Yahweh.’” And he basically says “no” to David’s idea and plan. Yahweh says He never commanded it. And then comes a word and a name that has not been used as part of God’s name before this. “Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts,” Yahweh Sabbaoth. Up to now this word has been used only to describe God’s creation, especially His invisible creation of armies of angels as in Genesis 2 where it says, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the” tsaba, “the host of them” (Gen 2:1). Then followed the designation of the seventh day as the day of rest. As God’s creation was completed in perfect peace, so will the coming Messiah reestablish peace through the “rest” of the forgiveness of sins.
This is why God said “no” to David. God’s house must stand for and proclaim peace. In First Chronicles chapter 28 we read David’s own words, “Hear me, my brothers and my people. I had it in my heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord and for the footstool of our God, and I made preparations for building. But God said to me, ‘You may not build a house for my name, for you are a man of war and have shed blood.’ Yet the Lord God of Israel chose me from all my father’s house to be king over Israel forever… He said to me, ‘It is Solomon your son who shall build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father” (2 Chron 28:2-6). Solomon would rule over a time of peace. God’s kingdom, symbolized by the temple, proclaims the peace of the forgiveness of sins.
So declared Psalm 122 sung by those going to the temple, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’ …There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! …“Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!’ For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, ‘Peace be within you!’” (Psalm 122).
So now we prepare to celebrate the Promised One born of the house and lineage of David; the One spoken of by the Prophet Isaiah, saying, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end” (Is 9:6-7). So we hear the angels proclaim at His birth, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:14).
This peace is real though hidden, just as sin has been defeated, its power destroyed, and yet it still hangs on until the Last Day. Peace begins with the end of our enmity, contention with and separation from God the thrice holy. The Son of David, the Son of God brought that peace only as He first took on our human flesh and blood and then in His two natures the God-Man shed His holy, sinless blood on the cross, enduring God’s wrath against all sin and thus removing all condemnation from us forever. “The blood of Jesus… cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Still, as God’s people of peace, as long as we are in this world we are at the same time called and equipped, as the apostle Paul says it, to fight: “fight the good fight of the faith,” “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Tim 6:12). That we must struggle and contend especially against any and all attacks on God’s Word and pure doctrine in no way contradicts the peace of God we have received and in which Christ rules in His Church. Remember that on the night when He was betrayed our Lord spoke of this reality when He said to His disciples, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
So we sing of peace as we prepare to celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord. We sing of peace in God’s mighty name, saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabbaoth.” We pray for peace in the midst of our struggles. And since we are justified by faith in the Prince of Peace, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1). So we sing:
Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
 Although the LXX uses cosmos instead of sabbaoth. See also Dt 4:19 and 17:3.