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Lesson 8: The Roots And Fruit Of A Thankful Heart (2 Samuel 7)

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I want to talk about one of the most commonly tolerated sins among those professing to know God. It is a most serious sin, and yet I encounter it often and I find that it’s often excused or shrugged off as no big deal. In fact, many Christians aren’t even aware that it’s sin! I struggle with it myself. It rears its head in different forms: self-pity, grumbling, complaining, depression, anger, defiance. Often at the root of all these symptoms is the sin of ingratitude toward our gracious, sovereign God.

Ingratitude is a characteristic of those in rebellion against God. It was because of grumbling and ingratitude toward God that Israel was laid low in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:10; Ps. 95:8-11). In Paul’s treatment of human depravity, ingratitude is one of the sins which plunged the race further into sin: “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; ... Therefore God gave them over ...” (Rom. 1:21, 24).

On the other hand, believers are commanded to give thanks in everything (1 Thess. 5:18). As those delivered from Satan’s domain of darkness, we are to be “joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12). A spirit of joyous, continual thankfulness ought to characterize us as Christians.

It’s not surprising to discover that the man whom God called “a man after My own heart” was a thankful man. I want to examine “the roots and fruit of a thankful heart” from David’s experience in 2 Samuel 7: How to sink down roots that will produce thankfulness in us at all times; and the fruit which thankfulness produces.

Background: David has consolidated his kingdom. He has brought up the ark and placed it in a tent in Jerusalem. He has built a palace for himself. And while David’s battles with Israel’s enemies are not over (as the following chapters reveal), at the moment God has given David a breather (27:1). During this period of calm, David’s thoughts turn to the fact that while he lives in a nice palace, the ark of God dwells in a tent (27:2). David wants to build a house for God. His friend, Nathan the prophet, at first says, “Go ahead.” But that night God speaks to Nathan and prohibits David from building the Temple. But God also tells Nathan to tell David that God will build a house for David and that David’s house and kingdom will endure forever (7:16). In what is called the “Davidic Covenant,” God promises that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants. David’s response was to be overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s goodness toward him.

You may be thinking, “Sure, who wouldn’t be grateful if God made that kind of promise to them?” But to grasp the significance of David’s response, we must recognize that God had just said “No” to David’s dream. It was a very tangible dream. In his own mind, David could picture the beautiful building, with worshipers thronging the courtyard. He wanted to do this visible thing for the Lord. But God said “No.” Instead He promised something that David would not see in his own lifetime: that Messiah would come from his lineage. That promise was not fulfilled until 1,000 years later when Jesus was born, and it will not be fulfilled completely until the future millennial reign of Christ.

That puts David’s thankfulness in a different light, doesn’t it? He easily could have been disappointed and even angry about God’s denial of his dream. But he was overwhelmed with gratitude. Maybe David does have something to teach us about thankfulness, especially when God says no to our plans!

1. The roots: A thankful heart stems from focusing on the sovereign grace of God.

David’s focus was upon God, His purpose, and His sovereign grace. A study of these verses reveals three characteristic roots of a thankful heart:

A. A thankful heart is focused on God, not on self.

Think of where David was at: He was king of Israel after years of hardship. He had defeated many enemy nations. He was established comfortably in his capital city in a nice palace. He was a famous, powerful man, with many serving him. He easily could have become self-focused. He could have got caught up with enjoying the good life and had no concern for the things of God. But he didn’t.

Instead, his thoughts turned toward the Lord and His purpose. He had a burden for God to be central in the nation, for God to be worshiped by His people. He wanted to build a temple which elevated the Lord to His proper place. David could not rest content while God’s house was not a reality. David’s heart was focused on God, not on himself. So even when God said no to David’s dream, David was overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s sovereign grace toward him.

One of the main reasons we wrestle with ungratefulness is that we’re self-focused. We tend to pursue our own fulfillment, comfort, and happiness. The dominant theology in American Christianity puts man and his happiness at the center instead of God and His glory. It teaches that God exists to meet our needs. We’re even being told that Christ died for us because we’re worthy! So we have people who by nature are self-centered coming to Christ to get an “abundant life” which they think is their right, which they assume will fulfill all their needs. But they’ve never repented of their self-centeredness. Then they become disappointed when God doesn’t do what they think He promised to do.

We have churches filled with people who are there to get God to solve their problems and make them happy. Do they want their problems solved so that they can more effectively glorify and serve God? No, they want their problems solved so that they can enjoy a happy life. Unlike David, they have no burden for God and His purpose. Instead of being focused on God, they’re focused on trying to get God to meet their own needs for their own gratification. They’re focused on self.

Let me shoot real straight, since Jesus did. He didn’t say, “If anyone wants to follow Me, I’ll meet his every need so that he can live a happy, comfortable life.” He said, “If anyone wishes to follow Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s shall save it” (Mark 8:34-35). If you want to be a thankful person, get your focus off yourself and your happiness and put your focus on God and His great purpose in the gospel. If we focus on God and His purpose, He graciously meets our needs. If we focus on self, we come up empty.

B. A thankful heart is submissive to God’s sovereign purpose.

David wanted to build the temple; God said, “No.” That answer would have been especially difficult to accept because David’s desire was right. He didn’t want something for himself. He didn’t want a new addition on the palace or a higher salary. He wanted to build a house for God. His motives were pure. But God said no. True, God wrapped His denial in some other wonderful promises. But nevertheless, it was a denial.

What did David do in response? First, let’s think about what he could have done but did not do. He could have allowed his disappointment to grow into depression. He could have sulked and felt sorry for himself. He could have angrily thought, “See if I ever try to do anything again for the Lord!” He could have turned to self-indulgence to soothe his hurt feelings.

Instead, he worshiped God. He was overwhelmed with gratitude for all that God had done. He submitted to God’s sovereign purpose, and was willing to be used however God wanted to use him.

The key to David’s response is seen in the way David viewed God and how he viewed himself in God’s sight. Eight times (27:18, 19 [twice], 20, 22, 25, 28, 29) in this short prayer David calls God, “O Lord God” (NIV = “Sovereign Lord”; Hebrew = Adonai Yahweh). In addition, David repeatedly extols God’s greatness (27:22, 26, 27) and His sovereign choice of Israel as His people (27:23, 24). And ten times David refers to himself, not as “the King,” but as “Your servant” (27:19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27 [twice], 28, & 29 [twice]). Because he saw God as the Sovereign of the universe and himself simply as God’s servant, he could submit and be thankful when God’s plans were contrary to David’s plans.

How about you? What do you do when God’s plans run counter to your plans? The test of thankfulness is not when God does what you want Him to do. That’s easy! The test of being thankful is when God says no to your plans, even when they are plans to further His purpose. To be thankful then you’ve got to see God as the Sovereign and yourself as His servant so that you submit to Him.

Thus, a thankful heart is focused on God, not self. A thankful heart submits to God’s sovereign purpose.

C. A thankful heart is overwhelmed by God’s sovereign grace.

When Nathan outlines God’s covenant promises to David, David is overwhelmed. In today’s slang, he is “blown away.” He goes into the tabernacle and sits before the Lord (27:18). As far as I know, it’s the only time in the Bible when a person sits down to pray. I think he was stunned, like when a lawyer calls you and says, “You had better sit down. A rich uncle has left you a million dollars.” David had wanted to build a house for God; but God says, “No, I want to build a house for David” (27:11). David’s response was, “Who am I?”

Grace means God’s unmerited favor. Don’t let anybody tell you anything else! Grace has two sides:

First, Grace is unmerited, which means, I do not deserve it. “Who am I ...?” (27:18). I am totally unworthy to receive it. If I get it because I’m worthy, it’s not grace. If I can do anything to earn it or deserve it, it’s not grace. Grace is a sovereign act of God, totally apart from human effort or human will. Grace is hard for us to grasp, because it is not the custom or manner of man (27:19). In life, we are conditioned to a system of work and wage, of effort and reward. But grace is not a wage or reward. It stems from the nature of God, not at all from the efforts of man.

You cannot understand or appreciate God’s grace until you are overwhelmed with a sense of your own unworthiness to approach God in any way. Your good works cannot commend you to God. If God dealt with you according to your merit, He would justly send you to hell. Grace is totally unmerited. When that thought grips you, it fills you with thankfulness toward God!

Second, Grace is favor. That is, grace reflects God’s abundant goodness. God, who is infinitely wealthy, has opened the treasures of heaven and poured out heaps of blessings upon us. Like Scrooge McDuck swimming in his money pile, so believers are awash in God’s blessing. David here considers:

* God’s favor in the past (27:8-9, 18). Brothers and sisters, stop for a moment and consider God’s grace toward you in the past. For some of you, it may be the very recent past; for others of us, that past goes back a number of years. But for all of us, whether we were raised in Sunday School or in a tavern, as we look at the past we must say, “God has been gracious. He rescued me from a miry pit.” We were dead in trespasses and sins, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),... (Eph. 2:4-5).

* God’s favor in the present (27:8b). David was now the ruler over God’s people Israel. Think of God’s present grace toward you. Perhaps you’re thinking, “King! I’m not even the boss! I’m low man on the totem pole.” But as Paul continues in Ephesians 2:6, “[God] raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, ...” That is our present! We are called to exercise the authority of our risen Head here on earth over the spiritual forces of darkness!

* God’s favor in the future (27:10-16, 19). God makes the astounding promise to establish David’s kingdom forever. This promise was only partially fulfilled in Solomon and the other kings of David’s lineage. It was and will be yet completely fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ, born of the lineage of David, who will rule on the throne of David in His millennial kingdom.

And what of our future? Paul continues Eph. 2:7, “in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” We cannot even fathom the good things that God has stored up for us in the future!

It’s all of grace! We’re surrounded by it: Grace rescued us from a sinful past; grace sustains us in an exalted calling in the present; and grace will preserve us for a glorious future!

God’s grace ought to knock us over at times. Do you ever spend time sitting before the Lord, overwhelmed by His tremendous grace? There ought to be frequent times (the Lord’s Supper [“Eucharist,” giving of thanks] ought to be one such time) when we sit before the Lord and turn over and over in our minds every facet of God’s unmerited favor as if we were examining a rare cut jewel. A thankful heart is overwhelmed by God’s sovereign grace.

Thus a thankful heart is rooted in focusing on the sovereign grace of God. The thankful heart focuses on God, submits to His sovereign purpose, and revels in His sovereign grace.

2. The fruit: A thankful heart results in petition for the promises of God.

The thankful heart will pray for the fulfillment of God’s promises. Note that although God had promised to do all of these great things for David, David did not take the promises for granted. David took God’s promise and turned it into prayer for fulfillment (27:25-27, 29).

You ask, “Why do we need to pray if God has promised to do it? If He is sovereign and will accomplish His purpose, then why do we have to ask Him to do it?” I don’t understand all I know. But I know that part of the way God brings about His sovereign purpose is through the prayers of His people. God expects His servants who are recipients of His grace to take His promises and turn them into thankful prayer for His glory. God has spoken, but He delights in His servants who say, “Do as You have said, Lord, that Your name may be magnified” (27:25, 26).

Do you know what the Son of David has promised concerning His house, His church? “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it” (Matt. 16:18). That is His promise. He expects His people, whose hearts are filled with thankfulness as they contemplate His sovereign grace, to take that promise and turn it into believing prayer: “Lord, build Your church, erect Your temple out of the lives of this community in order that Your name may be magnified forever!”

We need a bunch of warriors like David, whose hearts are filled with gratitude to God because of His sovereign grace, who will unite together to entreat the Lord to fulfill His promise by building the church in this community. God hasn’t shown us His grace so that we can live comfortably in our homes while His house needs to be built. He wants servants who will take His promise to build a house through the Son of David and turn it into petition that it may be done. We need to catch a bigger vision of what God has promised and of what He will do concerning His church in response to our prayers.

Conclusion

I realize that many of you are so mired in personal problems that it’s difficult, if not impossible, for you to lift your eyes to the sovereign purpose which God is doing in history. Maybe like David when he was running from Saul, you’re in survival mode. You can’t think about building God’s house until you have a measure of rest from the enemies of your soul. But remember that even when he was in survival mode, David was learning to trust the promises of God. He was learning to trust in God as his sufficiency. He was learning to give thanks through singing, even from the cave where he hid from Saul’s army (see Ps. 57)!

These things apply to you. There is a promise of God for every need in your life! What is your need this morning? Do you need freedom from guilt? He promises to forgive if you confess your sins (1 John 1:9). Do you feel lonely? “I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20). Do you need assurance? “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27-28). Are you troubled? “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27).

Are you worried about financial pressures? “Do not be anxious then, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:31-33). Do you struggle with powerful temptations? “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

Whatever our need, it is covered by a promise of God! No matter how overwhelming our circumstances, we can have hope and be filled with thanksgiving because our God is the sovereign God who always acts in grace toward us. We can take His promises and turn them into prayer for His glory.

You may be thinking, “That’s great! But why don’t I see those promises fulfilled?” I don’t know. But you may want to ask yourself, “Why do I want to see these problems solved? Why do I want to see these needs met? Is it so that I will be comfortable and happy? Or is it so that God will be glorified and His name magnified through me?” The Lord isn’t interested in meeting all of our needs so that we can live happy, self-centered lives. He wants us to seek first His kingdom. He wants us to be burdened for His house. He wants us to be focused on Him, not on ourselves. He wants us to submit to His sovereign purpose. He wants us to revel in His grace. Then, from a thankful heart, He wants us to pray into reality His abundant promises so that He will be magnified.

A thankful heart stems from focusing on the sovereign grace of God and results in petition for the promises of God.

May we all deal with the sin of ingratitude and become a thankful people to the praise of the glory of His grace!

Discussion Questions

  1. Should a person with major problems just deny them? How can such a person be focused on God, not on self?
  2. Agree/disagree: The modern emphasis on self-esteem has damaged our appreciation of grace by telling us that we’re worthy, not unworthy.
  3. Discuss the practical implications of the notion that God’s purpose is to make us happy versus the biblical truth that His purpose is to be glorified through us.
  4. Why pray for that which God has already promised?

Copyright 1993, Steven J. Cole, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Character of God, Character Study, Grace, Hamartiology (Sin), Prayer, Spiritual Life