Easter Sunday – April 1, 2018
But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying: 8 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.
“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands.
15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’” (2 Samuel 7:4,8-16
“I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” David, who wrote those words, was all too familiar with the shadow of death. It hung over him so heavy, so constantly, that he felt it could engulf him at any moment. Death seemed to be a giant, casting an all encompassing shadow over most of David’s experiences. In fact, David’s life had been filled with death.
One of the first times we hear about David is on the battlefield. He first killed another man when he was a young boy, when he defeated the giant Goliath. David then went on to be the object of Saul’s deadly jealousy and wrath. Saul threw spears at David. He hunted David down as a man marked for death. He killed the priests and townsfolk of Nob.
David had Uriah the Hittite killed to cover his sin of adultery. And at the end of it all, David counted his fighting men and once again had the blood of thousands on his hands as the Lord punished Israel.
There were also times when David had opportunity to send others to death. He could have murdered King Saul in the dark recesses of a cave. He could have snuffed out Saul’s life as he slept in a tent. Even after his own son, Absalom rebelled against him and his kingdom, David told his men not to kill him. When they did he was greatly distraught. Because of David’s adultery, the first child born to David and Bathsheba died in infancy.
David knew death better than most; and he was very aware of his own mortality. In Psalm 9 he described himself “in the gates of death.” He admitted in Psalm 13 that if God didn’t save him he would “sleep in death.” In Psalm 18 he declared “The cords of death entangled me” and “the snares of death confronted me.” He ultimately knew his body would be lain “in the dust of death.” The “Terrors of death [had] fallen on [David]” in Psalm 55.
And eventually death did find David. The physical death that seemed to stalk him all of his life, that giant shadow that hung over him, eventually washed David away. In his very matter-of-fact sermon in our second lesson, Peter stated, “I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.” David himself had become a testament to the fact that death comes to all alike: peasant and king, man and woman, believer and unbeliever.
David’s death was deserved. As great as King David was, as beautiful as his psalms sounded, as magnificent as his works had been, he still had to confess: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you [Lord], you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” And because David was a sinner, part of God’s promise this morning included the fact that he would die physically. “When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors.”
How familiar are you with death? Have you been around death like David was? Have you watched someone die with your own eyes? Does that same death seem to daily stalk you like it stalked David? Do you feel the heavy weight of the shadow of death towering over you in this valley of life?
We might be aware of death, and perhaps you have even witnessed it, but we usually like to remove the thought of death from our daily lives. After all, who wants to think about the gravity of death on a daily basis? Who wants to think about their ultimate end? No wonder we relegate death to back rooms in hospitals and distant funeral homes. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, we want to keep death away from our thoughts and our sight.
Even worse than the inevitability of physical death is the frightening thought of eternal death. Like David, your sins and mine deserve death – physical death at the end of our lives, and eternal death in hell. Yet David believed that deliverance, even from death, comes from the Lord. “Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.” And in our psalm this morning David went even further: “You will not abandon me to the grave.”
How is that possible? David died! Peter told us David’s tomb could still be seen! David could write those words because of the promise the Lord gave him in our first lesson.
In response to God’s blessings of forgiveness, kingship and protection David wanted to build a house for the Lord. How fitting that would be – Israel’s greatest king would build the temple of the Lord!
This morning, we see God had something even greater in store for David. “The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom.” But this descendant wouldn’t be David’s son, Solomon. This promised descendant is Jesus Christ, our anointed Savior.
God the Father says, “I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son.” We saw this past week how our wrongs and sins were thrust upon Jesus, causing him to be punished “with a rod wielded by men” and “with floggings inflicted by human hands.” We saw Jesus face our physical death and suffer the eternal death that should have been ours.
But this Easter Sunday we see David’s words come to life. While David had written the words of Psalm 16, they are Jesus’ words. “My body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave nor will you let your Holy One one see decay.” Dear Christian friends, on this Easter Sunday I can confidently tell you that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But I can also confidently tell you that “He is not [there]; he has risen, just as he said.”
Death, that ancient, awful enemy has been swallowed up in victory. And while physical death still comes at the end of our lives, it no longer leads to eternal death in hell. Jesus declared for you: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
Great David knew what that meant. And in one of his most beautiful and memorable psalms, he wrote what Jesus’ resurrection means for all who believe in him: “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Rejoice! Great David’s greater Son, Jesus, is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.