When I originally planned to preach this sermon, I found myself headed to the ER rather than to the church on that Sunday morning. It certainly was an unexpected trip. Fortunately, everything checked out and I was released the following day. A friend who pastors another church suggested I revise the sermon . . . or burn it! But God throughout the Bible is a God of the unexpected. Abraham never expected to have a child by Sarah when they were 100 and 99! The people standing on the banks of the sea expected to die at the hands of Pharaoh’s army. They never expected a wind would blow those waters apart. Even the story of Saul didn’t initially appear to be about a failed kingship. Instead, David became the king . . . which leads to the story of the unexpected that we will look at today, in 1 Chronicles 17.

In the text, we first find a God of the unexepected “nope.” First, we see in the text that we don’t speak for God. Nathan does just this in the text. In verse 2, Nathan doesn’t even hear the full plan of David. He hears enough to know it is about God and the ark and assumes that whatever David has “in mind, do it, for God is with you.” Why wouldn’t God be? It was for God. It was an act of devotion. It must be something good. We must beware, however. Even the most spiritual of us should never rely on the “obvious.” We must always inquire of the Lord.

Second, we learn we shouldn’t assume our plans are best. David assumed his plans were right. He wanted to build a temple. This was the most natural step in the ancient world. When an earthly king came to power, not only would he build himself a house but he would also build a house for the heavenly king who brought him to power. God had allowed David to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, after all. If he was pleased to have his ark dwell in the tent David had prepared, why not a splendid temple? But God told him that he was not the one to build a house for God (v. 4). The time is not yet. The person is not you. David assumed God wanted a house. David assumed God was not happy moving from place to place. But just as David’s first attempt to move the ark was not successful because it wasn’t done in the proper way, so now David’s plan to build a temple was not the right time nor was he the right person. God tells David that it is his son who will build a house of the name of YHWH.

Third, we must not lose sight of who serve whom. David was concerned that he had a palace but God only had a tent. But God indicates he was ok being a nomad. He had never complained about wandering with his people (vv. 5-6). God points out to David that the only reason David has a house of cedar is that God had taken the nomad (David, the shepherd) and made him the king. God had given him rest because God had enabled him to defeat his enemies (vv. 7-8). David’s desire with the temple was to make YHWH’s name great, but God says instead that he will make David’s name great. In the command of God to Nathan, God calls David a “servant” (v. 4). At the time, David was rather proud of his accomplishments and wanted to add temple-builder to his resume. But after God’s rebuke and covenant through Nathan, we see in David’s prayer that 10 times he calls himself “servant” (vv. 16-27), showing that he now understands he serves YHWH and not the other way round. It is God who gifts us with all that we have and all that we are. We receive his unmerited favor. As David says, “Who am I that you have brought me this far?” (v. 16). God tells David that he will set David’s seed over “my” house and “my” kingdom (v. 14). David is not to forget whose kingdom it is nor whose temple it will be. So we shouldn’t speak for God without seeking him in prayer. We shouldn’t assume to know the right time or person for even the most spiritual of activities. And we should never forget it is God who is God. Otherwise, we will encounter the unexpected “nope” of God.

But not only is God the God of the unexpected nope. He is also the God of the unexpected hope. God gave hope to the leader of his people. David wanted to build a house for God, but God says he will build a house for David (v. 10). He will give him a dynasty. His descendants will reign after him in Jerusalem. David also wanted to make God’s name great, but God says instead that he will make David’s name like the names of the greatest men on earth (v. 8). Though God removed his love from Saul, God will give David a dynasty (v. 13). His throne will be established forever and he will build the house for God (v. 12).

God also gave hope to the people. God made a people for himself. The Exodus is hinted at in Nathan’s oracle (v. 5) and is mentioned in David’s prayer (vv. 21-22). In verse 9, God promises to provide the people a “place” and to “plant” them, so that they won’t be disturbed nor oppressed by enemies (v. 9). Building a “place” is language for the temple. “Planting” is language of the Land. God is making his people holy in their land if they will only trust in him and obey him. So God’s promise is that they will no longer be nomads. Like David, they will have a settled life. It is only then, when the people are settled that God will accept the idea of having a permanent structure built for his ark. David asks in his prayer, “Who is like this people?” What makes them special? It is God who has redeemed them and brought them out, for what other nation can claim that their God created them rather than the people creating their gods (vv. 21-22)? If you want God’s name to be great, then be the people of God. Let him work through you.

God also gave hope for the future, and this hope brought joy to David. Who am I that you brought me this far, he asks? Then he adds, and if that were not enough, you have promised me a future (vv. 16-17)! In other words, he says, who am I that you have made my present great, yet you promise now a future that is even better?! God made David’s name like the most exalted on earth precisely because David humbled himself and was a servant of his LORD God. This promise of a future gave David the courage to pray (v. 25). The amazing thing about this story is that, when David is told his plans are to come to nothing, he doesn’t despair. He doesn’t complain to God. Instead, he find hope and this hope gives him courage to move forward into an unplanned future. And so David says, if the LORD blesses, he blesses forever (v. 27)!

Finally, God gave hope for eternity. The text gives us hope far beyond the lives of David and Solomon. The Chronicler is writing after the exile and return to Jerusalem. He has seen the temple destroyed. He has seen it rebuilt. He knows that the kingdom promised to David’s descendants did not last forever. Yet he saw that God was with his people in the exile and that he was still with them afterwards. Just as God had been with the people in the Exodus and after they entered into the land, so God was with them now. This gave the Chronicler hope that a Son of Dave would establish God’s kingdom just as the temple had been rebuilt. So, centuries in the future, the gospel writers upheld this same believe. There was a Son of David who would establish the Kingdom of God and reign over it forever and ever. The three Synoptic Gospels all focus on this idea of the Kingdom. The Fourth Gospel focuses instead on the one who would build the temple in three days. All understood that the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus to the right hand of God was the ultimate fulfillment of unexpected hope.

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“God of the Unexpected” 1 Chronicles 17 (audio)

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