Houses of Cedar

Psalm 23; 2 Samuel 7:1-14a

Sermon Houses of Cedar

Good morning! Question: How many of you have received gifts that you didn’t really want or need? I’m not talking about gag gifts. I’m talking about bigger gifts. You know, the kind of thing that makes you ask, “Does that person even know me?” Think of Ralphie, in A Christmas Story, when he gets the bunny costume from his Aunt Clara. I love that moment when the narrator says, “Aunt Clara had for years labored under the delusion that I was not only perpetually four years old, but also a girl.”

It’s funny when we hear the line. It’s even funnier when we see Ralphie in the bunny suit. But sometimes it’s more problematic. After a divorce, sometimes one parent showers the children with gifts. It can be an attempt to make the kids feel better, or it can be a bribe to gain the affection of the kids.

I’ve also heard stories of younger married couples, where one set of in-laws is constantly giving gifts to the couple, sometimes extravagant gifts. At a bare minimum, that gift shows up the other set of in-laws; it makes them look cheap. At worst, it’s a control mechanism. There’s an implicit threat with an extravagant gift—if the couple doesn’t do what the in-laws want them to do, the in-laws will cut off the gifts.

That’s not to say that every gift is sinister or an attempt at manipulation. But the truth is, sometimes the gift is about the giver. Sometimes it’s too much about the person who is giving the gift. That can be symptom of a relationship that’s out of balance.

We see that in our reading this morning from Second Samuel. David wants to build a house of cedar for the ark of God. You remember the ark of the Lord, right? From last Sunday? From the movie… The text tells us that God had given David “rest from all his enemies.” That is, that David had defeated all the enemies of Israel, because God was with him. David realizes that he’s got it pretty good—he’s living in a house of cedar! But the ark of God sits in a tent.

David doesn’t like that.

He thinks a tent isn’t good enough for the ark, the vessel that contains the presence of the Lord. So, David goes to the prophet Nathan and tells Nathan that he wants to build a permanent house for the ark. David wants to get the prophet’s blessing on his scheme. And Nathan actually thinks it’s a good idea!

At first.

Then Nathan hears the voice of the Lord.

God is less than pleased with David’s scheme. Speaking through the prophet Nathan, God tells David that their relationship is out of balance; God didn’t ask for a house of cedar:

Are you the one to build me a house to live in? 6 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 and a tabernacle. 7 Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”