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Advent 4 - God with Us!

Advent 2017  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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While we may have big dreams, our contentment comes from knowing that God is with us!

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Big Dreams

Sometimes I let my imagination go and think of what the future holds.
Sometimes it’s self focussed - such as increasing my wealth and my health.
Sometimes it’s a bit more noble - such as wanting to make a difference in a hurting world.
I have dreams for my family - again, sometimes a little selfish, like wanting my kids to have good education and successful careers, but also more noble dreams like wanting them to be well grounded in the Christian faith.
And I have dreams for this church! I dream that we will outgrow this current building. That we will make a bigger impact on our local community .
In fact the deacons have recently been thinking about these dreams and in the new year we will start talking about the vision of this church.
It’s a wonderful thing thinking about all the wonderful things that our future may hold.
I’m sure that each of you have various dreams. Some, perhaps more on the self focussed side, others maybe really admirable dreams.
Maybe it’s a bigger or better house you want. Maybe it’s to have greater influence on others. Maybe you also want to make a bigger difference on the world around you.
Or perhaps your dream is just to see God’s kingdom come, whether that’s in the here and now, or in the age to come.
It’s good to dream, particularly when our desire is to honour God.

The Problem

The problem with dreams comes when we start to assess our worth with how well we achieved those dreams.
Let’s say for example that your dream is to see your next door neighbour come to know Christ as their Lord and Saviour. This is certainly a admirable dream. Your desire is driven by love, knowing the truth of why they need God.
Let’s say that you even
Now let’s say you even do all the right things. You pray for them. You invite them to various Christian events. You even speak directly to them about the difference that God has made in your life.
And yet, in this hypothetical situation, nothing happens. They don’t see the need for God and so that’s it. I say it’s a hypothetical situation, but I think the reality is, that this has happened for many of us.
But here lies the problem. You see, particularly if that sort of example becomes a pattern, you can begin to think that you are doing something wrong. ‘What if I’m the one to blame!’
In my experience, it doesn’t take much for many of us to think that maybe God just isn’t happy us because things aren’t happening as quickly as we would like them to.

David’s temple

Earlier, I read to you from . To give you a bit of context around the situation, for arguably the first time, Israel finally were starting to find their feet as a nation.
God had formed this nation and brought them into the Promised Land, but if you know the story then you will know that it actually doesn’t quite go as well as you might hope. They essentially fumble around for a few hundred years, eventually begging to have a king like the other nations. Initially they get Saul, but he turns bad.
But then we get David when finally it would seem that there is some semblance of stability. It does take a while to get to that, and you can read about the initially phase of David’s kingship in the first few chapters of 2 Samuel. But by the time we get to chapter 7, Jerusalem has been established as capital, and David finally has enough breathing space to think about what might come next - and so we see David’s dream, and you would have to say that it sounds a very admirable dream. So much so, that when he tells Nathan, the godly prophet around at the time of David, even the prophets says that it’s a good plan.
The plan… is to build a temple suitable for God.
Now to understand the relevance of this plan, we need to go back to the time they wandered in the desert. During this time, a number of important things provided by God were collected, perhaps most notably the stone tablet on which the Ten Commandments were written.
They put this, and a few other important things, in a special box which became known as the Ark of the Covenant, or sometimes just the Ark of the Lord.
This Ark then essentially became synonymous with the presence of God. When they moved from place to place, the movement of the Ark became an important thing. When they set up camp somewhere, in the centre was to be set up a tabernacle, which was essentially a really fancy tent at this stage. The layout of this tabernacle was given by God in detail, with the centre being the most holy of holies, and this was where the Ark would reside.
When eventually they made it to the Promised Land, the tent essentially remained.
Now one more bit of background information. During the days of King Saul, the Ark was actually captured by the Philistines, but after the Ark caused havoc with them, they decided to hand it back.
When the Israelites got it back, they realised it’s power following a dramatic incident, but eventually in makes its way back to Jerusalem, and it is this return that is described in just the previous chapter to the one I read earlier.
And with David finding stability in the land, and the Ark now being back where it belongs, it is not surprising that David now turns his attention to where that Ark resides.
You see, he mentions to Nathan the prophet: “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent”.
Now if you pause just briefly, you’d have to say that this sound like a good plan. It is honouring to God. It will serve to strengthen the commitment that others have towards God. In fact, there are probably no real negatives that come from it.
And so, for that reason, it is perhaps not surprising when Nathan the prophet then quickly replies - “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you”.
In other words, the man of God agrees - this sounds like a great plan.
The only thing is - God has other plans.
In verse 4 where told that that night, the word of the Lord came to Nathan and if I can grossly paraphrase says: no, David, you’re not the one who is going to build a temple for me, rather that job is going to fall to your son.
Now, that is a very loose paraphrase, but when we dig a bit deeper into this word from God, we begin to see a new perspective on things, and it is this perspective that I want to offer to each of us today.

A New Perspective

It’s a perspective that says you might think your plan is good, and well that may be the case, but there is something that ultimately should give us great joy.
So let’s explore that perspective now...

God’s timing vs our timing

Verses 5 to 7 first give us the perspective of God’s timing.
You see, God’s Ark has been in a tent for many centuries up to this point, and the point that God wants to highlight is that at no point did God ever complain about being in a tent.
He’s not saying that he isn’t worth the honour, because certainly he is, but that the timing wasn’t right.
It’s easy for us to presume that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right now. But sometimes God has a different idea in timing.
Certainly I know that this can be frustrating for us when our dreams don’t work out, because we just can’t understand why God isn’t delivering when we think the timing is right now.

God’s work not ours

But the change in perspective doesn’t end there.
From verse 8, the perspective changes from not what David is doing for God, but what God is doing for David.
You see he says in verse 8: I took you from the pasture...
In verse 9 he says: “I have been with you… and I have cut off all your enemies...”
In other words, it’s not David who is going to bring God glory - God will do this himself.


Now before I go on I do need to clarify myself here because I recognise what I’m saying could easily be misconstrued.
What I’m not saying is that what we do is unimportant.
I’m not saying to just do nothing because God’s going to do it anyone.
In fact it is the opposite. God wants to partner with us, and we should be working for him as a response to what he has done for us.
But the point I want to make is that this work we do needs to be kept into perspective.
God wants you to work hard, but that’s not what is going to make the difference - God is.

God with us

But there is another aspect to the new perspective that God offers that I want to now focus on - and that is, the important thing is that God is dwelling with us.
In verse 9, this was highlighted to David in the past tense, saying “I have been with you wherever you have gone”
But in the second half of verse 11, we get a more emphatic statement: “The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you”.
Here God is turning David’s plan on it’s head by saying that rather than David building a house for God, God is going to build a house for David. Now, I’m going to explore a very special implication of this statement shortly, but for now I want to focus on the fact that by God establishing the house of David, implies God’s ongoing presence.
That ongoing presence is further reinforced in verse 14 when God says of David’s son, that “I will be his father and he shall be my son” - words that have deep biblical significance, but show the closeness of God.
In verse 15 he promises to never take his love away from David - again I’ll explore the specific promise to David in just a moment, but it highlights this new perspective where it’s not about what David but about God being near.
So often we can become focused on results. Have we done this right? Have we chased down this opportunity or that one?
This can take over our Christian walk. And it’s not that much of a step for us to think that our value as a Christian is based on those results.
But our value as a Christian is not what we do, but that God is near.

Applying Perspective to ourselves

While these words were spoken to David, and they include a very specific promise to him, this perspective is very helpful for us as we think about the various dreams that we have.
Whatever those dreams are:
First, you need to remember that God’s timing is often quite different to ours. While we may become impatient with how things are going, to God a thousand years are like a day.
Second, while our dreams might be really good, it’s actually not about what you do, but about what God is doing for us.
And Third, what is most important is that God is with us.

The Special promise

And it is this last aspect of God being with us, that I want to link to the very special aspect of the promise made to David, which will also link this all to Christmas.
You see the part of God’s response that I haven’t really discussed yet, involves the promise to establish David’s house.
Earlier, I looked at those verses from the perspective that they talk of God being with us, but the specific promise is to David kingship, and in particular that someone from David’s line will always be on the throne.
Now, possibly you may wonder what sort of relevance does David’s kingship have to us today.
Well, there are perhaps a number of different ways we could look at this, but I want to show how this links the Old Testament with the New.
You see, the kingship was not just another king from any old kingdom - rather it was the chosen King for God’s chosen people. This kingdom represented the very kingdom of God, and in the Old Testament we see this in a real physical way.
But what you need to understand about the Kingdom of God, is that the kingdom in the Old Testament was always intended to point towards the God’s kingdom found in the New Testament - a kingdom that is not limited to a physical boundary, but a kingdom defined by God’s reign.
And so as we journey from the Old Testament to the New, we see this continuity with the line of David. In fact, it almost seemed that the promise was broken when the physical kingdom was taken over by a foreign power, but the line was not actually broken - just the nature of it changed.
But of course, I suspect we all know where it leads - the line leads us to a little manger in Bethlehem where a new born baby lay.
And thus we find the ultimate fulfillment of the promise that was made way back in .
The establishment of David’s house and his throne that was to last for ever and ever, is ultimately found to happen with Jesus Christ .

Tying it together

This is a beautiful fact, but I want to tie it all together now to show that through this promise made to David some 3000 odd years ago, that culminated in God sending his son to earth, means that for us, as we remember the birth of Jesus, we too are given a new perspective on the world.
So I gave a moment ago three different points about how God changed David’s perspective on what he was to do.
They were:
Firstly - God’s timing is often very different to ours
Secondly - It’s not about what we do, it’s about what God does
And thirdly - the most important thing is about having God near us.
Well, I think these three points also fit when we remember the baby Jesus who came for us.

God’s timing

When we look at this baby we also remember how perfect God’s timing is.
That being said, it is interesting how we often think we know better.
Some of you might be familiar with the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. In the climatic song which reflects on the life and death of Jesus, the words state:
“You’d have managed better if you’d had it planned. Now why’d you choose such a backward time and such a strange land? If you’d come today you could have reached the whole nation. Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication”
This is a classic example of how our sense of timing is completely off compared with God’s.
You see the evidence is that when Jesus was born was actually perfect. I won’t dwell too long on this point, but it was actually a time when communication and travel was relatively easy around the world.
As Paul state it in - “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those under the law”
You see, God’s timing is always perfect, and we need to remember this as a corrective to when we think things just aren’t working for us.

Not our work

Now the second point I made from the word of God to David was about remembering that it’s not about our work but God’s.
Well, as we see this relate to the birth of Jesus, this corrective to our perspective is enhanced.
You see, a baby is completely helpless. This little baby might have been the saviour of the world, but at that point in his life, he was completely dependent on his parents, Mary and Joseph, for his day to day needs.
But was God out of control - absolutely not!
Indeed, everything that had happened was orchestrated by God. Every little detail.
Just like God saying to David that he was the one that looked after David and he was the one that would continue to look after David - we too take comfort from seeing a helpless baby that paradoxically, has complete control of the world.
God wants you to work hard for him - but you always need to remember that it is actually him that is working through us, or to be quite honest, sometimes despite our efforts.

God with us

But perhaps the biggest corrective that we need to make to our perspective on the world is that what matters most is that God is near us.
This is the perspective that helps us know that even when everything around us is falling apart.... when we can’t seem to get anything right, and we just feel like a failure… we can know that God is still with us.
And the birth of Jesus is the perfect reminder of that for us because in this event we see God becoming one of us.
We can sometimes imagine God as sitting up there in the clouds looking down on us. It’s easy to think that he must have no idea about what is going on.
But the truth is far from that. God knows exactly what we are going through, because he’s been through it himself. He has been one of us.
It’s a truth that we as Christians have become so familiar with that it loses it’s impact - but just think, God, the creator of the entire universe, made a deliberate decision to come and be one of us. He chose to subject himself to all of the ills of this world.
God came to be with us and he is still with us.


It is great to dream. But don’t let those dreams skew the perspective that we get from God when we look at baby Jesus.
Just like God had to correct the dreams of the mighty King David, we too have to subject our own thoughts to these same correctives - but at the centre of it is an almighty promise - a promise that God will always be with us.
Life is not easy - in fact it is hard! But know that God is walking with us, his timing is best, he is working for us, and he is with us.
Let’s pray...
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