Text: 2 Samuel 7:1-16
In the Gospel reading today we heard about the events that happened 40 days after our Lord’s birth. In keeping with His Word, Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus up to the temple in Jerusalem. This visit was for the purification of Mary from her childbirth and for the dedication of Jesus, as their firstborn son, to the Lord. It is written, St. Luke reminded us, “Every male that first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.” (Luke 2:23, English Standard Version) It was then that Simeon took Jesus up in his arms and blessed God, knowing that he could die in peace, having seen the Messiah. These events are celebrated in the Church as a holiday called the Purification of Mary and Presentation of our Lord. It falls every year on February 2nd, which this coming year will also be the Transfiguration.
Simeon took Jesus in his arms, knowing that he could depart in peace because Jesus is the promised offspring of David. The Lord promised David in our text that an offspring from his own body would sit on the throne and reign forever. That promised king is Jesus, Simeon confessed, and the kingdom He rules over is the Church. Here, Christ reigns over us in truth, mercy, love, and grace.
Our Old Testament reading this week takes place during the reign of King David, as we heard. It happened shortly after he began to reign from Jerusalem. The backstory here is that, after Saul died, the Lord told David it was time for him to be king – only from a town called Hebron, and not Jerusalem. David reigned in Hebron for seven years until inhabitants of Jerusalem came to him. They recognized that he had been chosen by the Lord and promised to submit to him as their king. From then on, David reigned as king from Jerusalem – for about 33 years. When he came to Jerusalem, he brought the Ark of the Covenant with him and built a tent for it to dwell in. Now, here comes the start of our text. “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.’” (2 Sam. 7:2)
You have to read between the lines a little bit but, essentially, David recognized an inequality here. He lived in a house of cedar, but the Ark of God – which housed the Ten Commandments, the manna, and Aaron’s staff – stayed in a tent. David wanted to build a fitting temple for God. It was a good desire, as Nathan recognized, but God had a better plan. He said to David, through Nathan, “Thus says the Lord: Would you build Me a house to dwell in?…The Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house…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 his kingdom forever.” (vv. 5, 11-13) In short, rather than David building a house for God which, at best, can only be impermanent, the Lord is going to build him a house which will last forever.
Now, this word “house” can mean a few things. Many times in Scripture it’s used as a synonym for the temple. If you’ve been to a burial from one of our congregations, often Psalm 122 is spoken at the grave, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’” (122:1) The house of the Lord means the temple, or for us, church. Yet, “house” can also be used for a family, a lineage; a kingdom, perhaps. This is part of what makes prophecy fun. Prophecies, such as the one in our text, can sometimes have more than one fulfillment. For example, we know from our lessons that David was not the one to build the temple. It was his son, Solomon. Solomon built the temple. David gathered supplies and did a lot of the planning, but the temple was actually built during Solomon’s reign. David knew this would be the case. He told Solomon in 1 Chronicles 22, “My son, the Lord be with you, so that you may succeed in building the house of the Lord your God, as He has spoken concerning you.” (1 Chron. 22:11)
As great as building the temple was, and as wise as Solomon was, his reign did not last forever. Though the Lord treated Solomon as son – disciplining and forgiving as a kind father – Solomon was at times more of a wayward son. This is where God’s promise stretches beyond Solomon to something else, someone else. St. Matthew’s Gospel begins, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David.” (1:1) The blind man Bartimeus called out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mk. 10:48) Gabriel told Mary, “The Lord God will give to [Jesus] the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Lk. 1:32-33) What God promised to David in 2 Samuel 7 finds its true fulfillment in Christ and the kingdom He builds. But what is that kingdom?
This is the question that Pilate had to consider, isn’t it? Remember what Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (Jn. 19:36) No, the kingdom which Jesus brings and which lasts forever is not an earthly kingdom. It is a heavenly kingdom and rule; it is the Church. The Church is the kingdom of Christ which cannot be shaken, eternal in the heavens. It is invisible, encompassing Christians throughout time and space, though it will soon be seen by all at Christ’s return. In this kingdom, Christ reigns forever because He is forever. He is the one who created all that exists. Not one thing that exists came into being apart from His hand, not even us. Yet, for our sake, He became and is as we are – flesh and blood. He was conceived and born. He submitted Himself to the Law for us, even shedding His blood for us when He was circumcised on the eighth day.
By His birth, life, death, and resurrection Jesus established a kingdom that will not end, His Kingdom of Grace. Not only did He establish a kingdom, but He has brought us into it. As we heard on Christmas, we receive all the blessings of Christ by our Baptism into Him. Through that same washing, we are severed from the kingdom of the devil and planted in Christ’s. When we receive the Lord’s Supper together, we partake of the victory feast now happening in heaven and which will reach full glory on the Last Day. In the kingdom of which we are now a part, we have the continual and free forgiveness of our sins. As our confirmation students have learned, in this kingdom the Holy Spirit daily and richly forgives our sins and the sins of all believers.
Lastly, Jesus said, “I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mt. 16:18) In a way, Jesus comments on what was promised to David – an eternal kingdom. Though devils all the world should fill, we tremble not. The kingdom to which we belong is not some earthly power that rises or falls, but the Holy Church of God and Christ. Here we have the forgiveness of sins and, where there is no sin, there is no death. And so, when it is time for us to depart, we will – with Simeon – die in peace, for we are citizens of an eternal kingdom that extends beyond the grave into a new creation. This kingdom is the Church, our king is Christ, and He reigns forever, just as He promised David. It says in Hebrews, “Let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.” (12:28)