The Word of the Lord Came
|"Annunciation" by Caravaggio|
“But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan” (2 Samuel 7:4).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
It just wasn’t right, and David knew it (2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16). The enemies were conquered, the kingdom was secure, and he lived in a beautiful palace made of cedar in Jerusalem, but the Lord’s house was still the tabernacle. The house of worship for the one true God was still a tent, just as it had been for 400 years.
It didn’t look right: it looked like David thought he was far more important than the one true God, and David wanted to fix it. He called Nathan and announced his plans. He was going to build a temple, a huge temple, the most glorious temple ever! One can imagine his excitement. Oh, to be there when the building was finished, when the Lord appeared in a glorious cloud, overshadowed the temple, and then entered it! It sounded perfect, and Nathan gave his blessing. What proclaimer of God’s Word doesn’t get excited at the prospect of a new sanctuary?
But that same night the word of the Lord came to the prophet Nathan. The Lord said no. He didn’t want a temple, not yet. He didn’t need a temple, either. That building—His house—would be for the people’s benefit, not His. For now, the building would wait. But the Lord had better news for David. He reminded David that He had taken him, a lowly shepherd boy, and made him ruler over all of Israel. David was king only by God’s mercy and faithfulness.
But more important was this: The Lord was going to make David’s house last forever. Not the cedar palace: no, that would decay like everything else. What He meant was that David’s household, his family line, wouldn’t end. Ever. The throne of David would be established forever. While David lived in a world of violence, death, and coups d’etat, the house of David would reign for eternity. One of his descendants would sit on the throne forever. He would be the Savior.
David would not live to see Solomon build the temple, or to see the Lord overshadow the Holy of Holies in a cloud before entering. For now, the Lord was content to live in a tent while a human king lived in cedar walls. And David would be long dead before the Savior was born. But while he would not see these things with his eyes, David had God’s Word on it. He had God’s promise. And so he declared in response to God’s promise, “Now, O Lord God, confirm forever the word that You have spoken concerning Your servant and concerning his house, and do as You have spoken” (2 Samuel 7:25). The Word of the Lord came to David through the prophet Nathan. God had said it. It would happen. And so it did.
God kept His promise; and nearly a thousand years later, the angel appeared to Mary: Mary, descendant of King David, but humble and poor and living in backwoods Nazareth. “You’ve found favor with God,” said Gabriel, “and you’re going to have a Son. He will be the Son of God, and He’ll sit on David’s throne forever.” It wouldn’t be a throne of this world, lasting for only a generation or two. It would be an eternal throne, for God’s Son would rule forever.
The practical Mary asked, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Gabriel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” Once God had overshadowed the temple before entering in; now He would overshadow Mary and she would carry the Christ child in her womb. And as David had once added his amen and prayed, “Do as You have said,” Mary faithfully added hers: “Let it be to me according to your word.”
Luther explained how it happened that Mary became pregnant: “Where does [this Child] come from? The angel Gabriel brings the word: ‘Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son…’ With these words Christ comes not only into her heart, but also into her womb, as she hears, grasps, and believes it. No one can say otherwise, than that the power comes through the Word.”[i]
The angel preached God’s powerful Word to Mary. While he was preaching, the Holy Spirit was busy performing the very thing that had been promised in the Word. Clearly, the Word was “at work in” her (1 Thessalonians 2:13). The eternal, incarnate Word came to Mary. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, for the first nine months in the humble confines of Mary’s womb.
And it was like the palace and the tent all over again. Herod’s kids would cavort securely in royal mansions, while Mary would continue her life of poverty in Nazareth, Bethlehem, on the run in Egypt and back. Herod would sleep in a luxurious bed, but the Son of David would first be laid in a manger. And so it would go: Herod and Pilate and Caesar would have their proud warhorses, but Jesus would ride a colt, the foal of a donkey. They would have their palaces and Praetorium, but the Son of Man would have no place in which to lay His head. They would possess their golden thrones and crowns, but the Savior would have His cross and crown of thorns.
To the eye, Jesus would seem like nothing compared to those earthly rulers; but Herod, Pilate, and Caesar all died and remain dead. Jesus died. Jesus is risen. And, as the Lord gave His Word to David, Jesus reigns forever as King. Your King—because He died and rose for you.
Indeed, in the past two thousand years since the birth of Christ, countless kings have ruled and died. Empires have risen and fallen, civilizations emerged and disappeared. That is how kingdoms go in a dying world. But Jesus remains King of kings and Lord of lords—for now and for eternity.
Why? Because Christians say so, hold out hope and insist it to be true? No. Jesus is King because He says so. The Word who came to David through the prophet and to Mary through the angel still comes today. This miracle prompted Luther to rejoice over how Christ also comes into you. He marveled:
I preach the gospel of Christ, and with my bodily voice I bring Christ into your heart… I preach that he sits on the right hand of God and rules over all creatures, sin, death, life, world, devils and angels; if you believe this, you already have Him in your heart… Now see, as I have said, how much the poor bodily voice is able to do. First of all it brings the whole Christ to the ears; then it brings Him into the hearts of all who listen and believe.[ii]
The astounding and miraculous power of God’s Word is also a good reason for you to rejoice. Christ comes inside your heart in exactly the same way in which He entered Mary’s womb—through the power of the Holy Spirit. He does not come into you because of any human effort or by any decision you might make. Rather, Christ comes into you through the miracle of His Word.
Where the Word of God is preached, there Christ is also. Because Christ miraculously comes into you, not through your own human decisions or efforts but through His Word, you may praise God as Mary did: “Let it be to me according to Your Word.” Through the means of grace, the Word of the Lord still comes to you.
Throughout the kingdoms of the world, nations rising and falling, ruled by just men and despots, the Lord still speaks His royal decrees, His certain pronouncements. The Word of the Lord still comes! You hear Him ruling at the font, where He says, “I am the King who has conquered even death, which is why I live forever. I share that victory with you now: I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Through the water and Word, you are baptized into My death and resurrection.”
You hear Him speak His final judgment through the mouth of His called and ordained messenger: “I have conquered sin and devil, and I set you free from that kingdom of darkness. I forgive you for all of your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
You hear Him speak His invitation at the altar: “This is the King’s table, and I give you My body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith.”
That is where the King rules today: by His means of grace. Not just in church, but wherever His Word is preached and His Sacraments administered according to His Word: in the hospital, the battlefront, the nursing home, the school, and the deathbed.
So be duly warned. You’ll always be tempted to look for Jesus in the glitz and glamour, the flash and sizzle of this world—in feelings and excitement and numbers and more. Or you’ll be tempted to despair because the world continues its death throes and the Lord does not return yet.
But when you are so tempted, remember that He has made you part of His household of faith, not household of sight. Remember the tent, not the palace. Remember Mary. Remember manger and cross and crown of thorns. Remember that your King comes humbly to save you, to make you His own, that you might be in His kingdom forever. Remember how the Word of the Lord came to David and to Mary; and how the Word of the Lord still comes to you today. He is not far from you, but gathers you here to rule with mercy, to speak to you His Word and feed you His Supper. So like David and Mary, you add your amen: “Let it be to me according to your Word.”
Your King rules and reigns forever, and you are His forever, too: because you are forgiven for all of your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
[i] Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 36: Word and Sacrament II. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 36, p. 341). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.