In yesterday’s texts, King David appears to be having a chat with God:
Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and said, ‘Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God ….
What David went into was the tent containing the ark of the covenant, and our experts say people did not sit to pray, so probably what the “sat” word really meant was “stayed,” after everyone else had left. Which is still a terribly intimate thing to do … to stand in the presence of God, speaking your heart.
Life is good, at the moment, for David. He has won all his battles; secured and unified his kingdom; and has built a beautiful home. Now he wants to build a house for God, because it’s just not right for the king to have a nicer house than God. The prophet Nathan tells him to go for it: “Go, do all you have in mind, for the Lord is with you.”
Except Nathan’s got it wrong. And so the word of the Lord came to Nathan that night in a dream and said “You tell David, that shepherd I pulled from the pastures to become prince of Israel, he’s not the one. It will be his son who will build Me a house, but I will never reject David or his descendants, as I did Saul.”
This is the gracious covenant God we talked about before; David hasn’t earned or asked for this gracious word from God. It just comes, from God’s own loving purposes, this promise: “I will never leave you.”
And so David comes into the presence of God, speaking the prayer of his heart: “Who am I, that you have brought me this far?”
A good prayer. For David and for us. Because God also promises us, “I will never leave you.”
We don’t always respond with David’s humility, or gratitude.
In our arrogance and pride, we build powerful nations and princely churches and plan ever larger budgets … to which I imagine God says, “Really? I’ve dwelled in a tent all this time and you think you are going to build something to contain me? You must be confused.”
And yet, in the next breath, this gracious God offers the great “and yet ….”
I will never leave you, nor forsake you.
These are words I need to remember. All year long, I have been trying to build structures that will contain my love for God in particular ways. I need to remember that my God is a wild God, whose Spirit blows where it will, even as it dwells in my heart. My God lives in a tent, and can move quickly. There are times when God moves and I miss it. This may well be one of those times. And yet, my God is gracious, and says, “I will never leave you.” My shepherd will return to my side, invite me to the path once more.
Oh, Beloved, in this time when I feel bereft of purpose and position, help me to remember that life with you is life in a tent. Who am I, anyway, that you have brought me this far? Who am I, that you will continue to be with me?
As Paul reminds us, in this same set of texts, who I am is God’s child, God’s own. As a mother, I have an inkling of how one loves one’s child: with a love that never quits, never gives up, sometimes has to let lessons be learned, always tries to provide what’s needed, earnestly desires to provide what’s wanted. And You, Beloved, You love me infinitely more than that.
Who am I, to complain about how slowly the road ahead unfolds, when I see how far You have already brought me?
This season of Advent may be drawing to a close, with the last Sunday of Advent tomorrow; but really, Advent never ends. Our God is an Adventing God, always drawing near, always about to do a new thing, always creating new life. Let me not grow weary; let me not forget.