Thursday, January 20, 2005

I Will Build

Matthew 16:13-18 (King James Version)

“13When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
14And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
15He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church (my emphasis added); and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

I’m going to take a one day interlude from my series on the “Church That Should Never Have Been” to spend some time looking at something that is related. Actually I think it will act as a very nice bridge between the first and second parts.

The introduction to yesterday’s post was from II Samuel 7, the story of David, the prophet Nathan, dreams and visions, and most of all God’s perspective on the matter. I’ve always found it fascinating, and I find it, in this generation of mega-churches and para-church ministries, very timely indeed.

The account comes of the heels of one of David’s great victories. Now, flush with that victory, he dreams out loud. He consults with Nathan, Israel’s prophet. There’s something noble he wants to accomplish; he wants to build something for God. I can almost see the animated conversation, David pacing jubilantly, describing what he wants to build. Nathan seems to catch the vision. "Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the LORD is with you,” he replies. Nathan departs and I believe at this point David must have worked out the logistics in his mind. “I’ll need an architect.” “We’ll need to get all the right materials.” “Oh, and we’ll need craftsmen and artists.” "This is going to be big, very big!”

I don’t think the king slept much that night. This was, in his mind, to be his crowing achievement.

But someone else didn’t sleep well that night. Nathan, who had blessed David’s dream before he retired, now heard from God. And what a word he heard. To put it modern vernacular it would have sounded like this. “Nathan, tell David I have never asked him to build Me a house. I’ve been fine in the tabernacle ever since I delivered the people of Israel from the bondage of Egypt. Not only that, tell David that he was just a young shepherd boy before I apprehended him and made him the king of Israel, that’s all. Further, tell him that I’m the one who has always delivered Israel from its enemies. Oh, and Nathan, there’s one more thing. Tell David that if he’s worried about his legacy, I’ll be the one to make him great as even the greatest men of the earth.”

There’s a lot there! It seems somewhat like a rebuke to me. It seems that part of it was God’s way of saying, “Who are you to build My house?” I’m not sure I’d want to be the one who had to deliver that part of the message to a king. But Nathan faithfully delivered it.

Fortunately there was a second part. God promised to build David a house and a history that would be remembered by future generations. But I think that promise hinged on David having a clear understanding of Who was to be in charge.

I’m amazed by David’s response on hearing Nathan. He didn’t challenge the prophet. He didn’t get downcast. He simply went in to a private place and communed with God:

2 Samuel 7:18-29 (New International Version)

David's Prayer

“18 Then King David went in and sat before the LORD , and he said:

"Who am I, O Sovereign LORD , and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign LORD , you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign LORD ?
20 "What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Sovereign LORD . 21 For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.
22 "How great you are, O Sovereign LORD ! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 23 And who is like your people Israel-the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? [
a] 24 You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, O LORD , have become their God.
25 "And now, LORD God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, 26 so that your name will be great forever. Then men will say, 'The LORD Almighty is God over Israel!' And the house of your servant David will be established before you.
27 "O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, 'I will build a house for you.' So your servant has found courage to offer you this prayer. 28 O Sovereign LORD , you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. 29 Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, O Sovereign LORD , have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever."

What an amazing response! I wonder how many “movers and shakers” or church growth gurus would respond that way today in the face of those words. I can almost hear them now. “Who are you to tell me what God is saying? I’m God’s anointed and I’m going to build something for God!”

I’ll always remember a leader’s meeting I attended many years ago. Our church was looking for a pastor. One of the group said that we needed someone who was “CEO material.” His words passed by me for a second, then I thought about them more deeply. “A CEO? We already have a CEO! The last thing we need is another who will compete with the One we have.” It took us a while, but we did finally come to the place where we saw that our need was for a servant. But I’ve often thought that just entertaining such an idea didn’t speak well of us at all.

Movers and shakers. Power brokers. Development strategies and “new paradigms.” They all seem so attractive, so alluring. I read God’s words to David and see that God is looking for men and women who would be willing, like the great king, to allow Him to be the Mover and Shaker, the Power Broker, the One who hold the strategies and paradigms in the palm of His hand.

I only hope and pray that these modern day “visionaries” allow God to speak through their grand ideas and see clearly that their job is not to build something great for God, but to simply be His servants. If, or when, they see that then I believe the real building can commence.


Feeble Knees said...

If I could do cartwheels and shout AMEN I would. But innocent bystanders could get hurt. So I'll just reply heartily: AMEN, AMEN, AMEN. Thank you.

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