It’s easy to theorize about preaching; it’s not so easy to put theory into practice. Thus, a few weeks ago, after I wrote some articles on preaching from the Song of Solomon, I kept hearing a little voice saying, “Well buddy, get to it!” So I did, and posted the sermon notes here.

I wasn’t surprised, therefore, when, after giving 7 Tips for Balanced Biographical Preaching, the little voice started up again: “How about it then, Murray?” When a few people channeled my inner voice in the comments section, asking for examples of preaching that balanced redemptive history lessons with personal application, I pointed people to some of Joel Beeke’s Genesis sermons, but also decided I really have to work harder at this myself.

So, last Sunday, I preached on 2 Samuel 6, where David’s ill-fated attempts to return the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem resulted in the death of Uzzah and blessing on Obed-edom. Originally I entitled the sermon “A Holy Home for a Holy God,” but as I meditated on the passage, the stronger message became, “Desiring the God who desires sinners.” I’ve posted the full manuscript here (pdf) and my summary notes here (pdf); and below you’ll find the introduction and first point in full. I tried to follow a three step process in each of the main points:

  1. The Original Story: An explanation of what’s happening in the text
  2. God’s Story of Redemption: What the story teaches about God and His plan of redemption
  3. Your Story of Redemption: How God’s story of redemption impacts and intersects with our own lives.

Hope this might help someone just starting out in the great calling of preaching the Gospel.

Desiring the God who desires sinners

Whatever else the Bible teaches us, it teaches us that God wants to live with men and women, boys and girls. He desires to enter our lives, our homes, and our hearts and to dwell with us.

Why else did He make our world and us? Look at Him in the Garden of Eden, visiting with Adam and Eve, regularly walking and talking with them. He loved doing that.

And even when they sinned and ran away from Him, He sought them out, found them, and announced a way He was going to recover the situation and make them His friends again (Gen. 3:15).

Time and again throughout Genesis we find God seeking out sinners, drawing near to them, walking, talking, and living with them. He’s saying repeatedly, “I want to share your life and I want you to share mine.”

In Exodus, God made the clearest statement yet of this desire. He orders the construction of a Tent-palace by which He would dwell in the middle of the Israelites. And in a special holy section of the tent, at its center, would be a golden throne, a gold-covered box (4×2.5×2.5 ft), with a heavy golden lid, also known as the mercy seat, bracketed on either side by golden cherubim looking towards the mercy seat.

This golden throne was called the Ark of the Covenant, partly because it contained a written copy of the covenant arrangements in the box, but mainly because it was the central expression of God’s covenanted commitment to dwell with men on the earth. It was the place God specially dwelt, often demonstrating that presence through a bright fiery cloud that hovered above the mercy seat, between the cherubim.

This is how God puts it in his building instructions: “You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim” (Ex. 25:21-22).

And that’s the phrase that greets us right at the beginning of this chapter (2 Samuel 6:2). David and multitudes of people decided one day to go and bring back to Jerusalem the “ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the Lord of hosts that dwelt between the cherubim.” They desired the God who desired them.

The theme of this chapter and of this sermon is: Desiring the God who desires sinners.

1. Desiring God (vv. 1-2)

a. A Lost Ark
Why was the ark not in Jerusalem? Well, about 65 years previously, Israel lost the Ark because of their sin. In 1 Samuel 4, when the backslidden Israelites had tried using the Ark as a kind of lucky charm in battle, the Lord gave the Israelites over to the Philistines, who also took the Ark. A modern-day equivalent might be Islamic terrorists capturing the Liberty Bell, or perhaps taking the British Queen’s crown. But remember, Israel had lost far more than just a patriotic symbol; they had lost God’s throne, God’s dwelling place, the way God lived among them.

b. A Lost Desire
You would think that Israel would try to recover the ark at the earliest opportunity. However, they didn’t seem to be that bothered. Though God desired to live with them, they really had no desire to live with God.

But God continued to express his desire to live with the Israelites by chastising all the heathen who came into any contact with the Ark. So much so that eventually the Philistines and others got rid of the ark, sending it back to Israel where it arrived in the house of Abinadab of Kirjath-jearim. And there it stayed for 20 plus years, about 7-8 miles NW of Jerusalem, and virtually no one enquired after it (1 Chron.13:3). Few if any desired God. What an indictment of Israel! God desired to live with them, God ensured the Ark’s return among them, but virtually no one wanted God to live with them nor they with God.

c. A Renewed Desire
This poor state of spiritual affairs clearly vexed David, as we can discover in Psalm 132. His first thought, therefore, after his enthronement was the enthronement of God above the Ark of the Covenant (1 Chron.13:1-4). He gathered 30,000 of the best men in Israel and marched to Kirjath-jearim to the house of Abinadab to bring back the Ark of God. God is at work stirring up in David and in others a desire for God

God’s Story of Redemption

The Ark was a picture promise of what God was going to do on an even bigger scale. Old Testament believers looked at the Ark and hoped for something more, something even closer, something even more accessible, something even more personal, something even more beautiful.

Jesus is the fulfillment of that picture promise; the satisfaction of that Old Testament faith and hope; the ultimate, emphatic, and enthusiastic expression of God’s desire to live with sinners. He was made flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

Your Story of Redemption

1. Respond to God’s desire for you with desire for Him. Many Israelites came to faith through believing the message of the Ark. Priests and prophets and other believers would point fearful, guilty sinners to the Ark and say: “Look, despite all that you are and all you have done, God desires to live with you. He sits on a mercy seat and promises to meet with you there.” What an encouraging sermon! Who could not but respond to that with desire for God?!

But we have an even louder and clearer message. Jesus said He was greater than not just the Ark, but greater than the whole Temple (Matthew 12:6). He is our throne of grace and mercy to come to in our time of need (Hebrew 4:15-16). Respond to God’s desire for you with desire for Him.

2. Re-kindle your desire for God by meditating on his desire for you. Perhaps you used to desire God. But now your heart has grown cold. You’ve neglected and ignored Christ for too long. You don’t have much appetite or longing for God. How can you re-kindle that? The same way that David and the Israelites did after decades of neglect. Back to the Ark! Re-kindle your desire for God by reminding yourself of God’s desire for you, Christ’s desire for you, the Holy Spirit’s desire for you.

Read the rest here.

  • Joe Hester

    Could you give us a quick overview of your system of pulpit notes? What do the letters out to the side stand for? What about the different color hi-lights etc.

  • David Murray

    Joe: I don’t usually use note in the pulpit (apart from direct quotes and Scripture references). I use the summary notes to help me “memorize” the main points and subpoints. The letters in the margin are the first letter of the key word in the sentence/line (usually underlined). That’s what I try to get into my mind. So I’m not attempting to memorize word for word, but the key words from the key points. It sounds harder than it actually is. With practice, and if I’ve been immersed in the sermon, I can get a good framework in my mind in 30-45 mins. Do I miss out points sometimes – Yes. Do I stumble with grammar at times – Yes. But I prefer the direct eye-contact and the freedom from a manuscript. It’s a personal choice. Not saying everyone should do it. Here are a couple of posts on the subject:

    • Joe Hester

      Thanks. Very helpful.