2 Samuel 7:18-19
Then went king David in, and sat before the LORD, and he said, Who am I, O Lord GOD? and what is my house…
These verses represent David as coming to a point in his life when he steps aside for a moment out of the current of events to ask what they all mean, what light they throw upon his own life and destiny, and what on the character of God. David had become King now over all Israel and Judah, and he had conquered the Philistines sufficiently to have a moment's rest. The kingdom is established. David is so impressed with this that he retires to be alone with God, and in the sacred solitude he says: "Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that Thou hast brought us thus far?" And David felt that he was, somehow or other, being worked by a vast Power, that he was in the sweep of a tremendous current of purposes, part of a larger scheme than he himself had ever conceived, and evidently destined for some end larger than he knew. His life, he felt, could never be explained from himself. He was king of the people, but, just as surely, he was the servant of Jehovah. A greater than he was really directing his course. What had happened up to this point was proof, too, that somewhat more was intended. The sense of great things to come came in with that interpretation of the past. The wonder of accomplishments thus far shot into the future as a luminous prophecy of high destiny and great ends. And with this sense of his importance, and the importance of the nation at having a distinct place in the Divine economy, came a great sense of humility. "Who am I, and what is my house? The moment man learns his real greatness he is humble; it is when he masquerades an absent majesty he lifts a proud head. Now, it is always a difficult thing to construct the theology of history. I am not going to attempt it here. But a much more difficult thing, I think, is to learn history and have no theology. I do not suppose that David, or the man who wrote his history, or we ourselves, would speak of God taking him from the sheep-fold and making him king and giving him success in any such sense as to make God the Author of David's misdoings. It is quite true that we cannot apply any theology to a satisfactory explanation of all the facts of history, but to read history and behold its trend and drift and its vast issues without believing in the Ordering Intelligence, who is moral and good, is to me impossible. "Take away the belief in the self-conscious personality of God," said Tennyson, "and you take away the backbone of the world." "On God and God-like men we build our trust." Now, if we survey the past of the world and of mankind we may always ask with incredulity, "And is this the law of man, O Lord God?" And with the conviction that God is at work, which any adequate view of the past gives, comes the belief in the still greater future. So much is done that it must be little, I think, compared with what remains. Think for a moment of the evolution of mankind. Let man read back the history of his race as far as he can, until ,he sees his ancestors of the Tertiary Period joining together to fight against the stronger animals. What a tremendous distance he has come from that early struggle to this present time when he is not only lord over the brute creation, but when he bends the elements of nature into his service! Think how from a few simple sounds he has developed all the richness of a modern language! Captain Cook said the language of Fuegians was like a man clearing his throat. Think of the wonderful way in which man has risen from physical to moral and spiritual conceptions. The story of it lies embedded in our language to-day. One writer sums it up by saying: "From A to Z the dictionary is crowded with examples of the physical roots from which moral and intellectual terms have sprung." "Supercilious," e.g., means literally one who raises his eyebrows. Then, how did it come to mean a quality of spirit? Because man came to read the inner nature and to relate it to physical expression. A calculating man simply meant at first one who counted with small stones (calculus, pebble), but calculation now is a mental effort. This passage of words from physical to intellectual, moral, and spiritual meanings, indicates the passage of man to higher stages of life. Long, long ago man began to guess in a very crude way about the causes and properties of things, and the outcome is modern science with all its wonders. Well, having brought us thus far, is it not certain that much more is in store for us? Mr. Wallace puts fifteen great discoveries, all applications of science, to the credit of the nineteenth century, as against eight for all previous history. Is this wonder a sign that we are nearing the end of the world? Nay, rather we have just discovered that the reserve of the universe is exhaustless. "Each generation of physicists," says Mr. H. Spencer in his last book, "discovers in so-called brute matter powers which but a few years before the most instructed physicists would have thought incredible." Is this march of science the law of man, O Lord God? Nay, rather, we would ask, "Who are we that Thou hast brought us thus far?" Think, again, how far God has brought us on the paths of morality and theology and religion. From the crudest guesses as to His own nature Be has led us into the temple of the Father of Jesus Christ, and from mistaken sacrifices to the communion of the Holy Spirit. Think how the finest moral feelings have developed out of rude physical relations; even the modesty of woman and the love of man were once what ,we should now deem vulgarities. In this the law of man, O Lord God? "For Thy word's sake, and according to Thine heart, hast thou wrought all this greatness?" The whole development of mankind in language, art, and science, in social union, morality, and religion, is the history of a great forming Spirit bringing order out of chaos, the history of the inner word of God winning utterance: for itself through all discordant sounds, and turning the Babel of man into the Pentecost of the Holy Ghost. But let us turn our thoughts on this subject to our own individual lives. If you believe that God is conducting the march of the race to high and noble ends, you need to believe also that He is personally dealing with you. David's thoughts turned not only upon his nation and its place in the world, but upon himself and his own relation to God. David was king, you say, and it was a wonderful thing to have come from the sheepfolds of Bethlehem to the throne of Israel. Well might the shepherd-boy of former days now ask, "Who am I?" But your life contains nothing startling of this kind; you were born an ordinary person, and you are an ordinary person still. Perhaps instead of success and promotion you have had much misfortune and adversity. When you think of the way you have come thus far, you have very mingled feelings about it, you see great blunders and sad mistakes — blunders and mistakes which, perhaps, have brought you a harvest of sorrows. You may be in the very midst of circumstances now which appear to be very much against you, which are at least very difficult to deal with. Types of life and careers are an infinite variety. But this thought that God is dealing with us is not confined to any type, much less confined to the successful type, From the sheepfold to the throne is by no means the one line along which the Divine leadership is recognised. Rather, indeed, it is the normal experience of man. A few men may adopt a certain course of thought, and reason themselves out of this conviction, or suppose they had done so, but mankind will never consent to it. The general feeling with regard to the race is that a "God marshals it," and with regard to the individual even "that man proposes and God disposes." Most men who from advanced years look back feel that someone else, not themselves, has really tracked their way. Without denying or diminishing man's share in the conduct of his own life, without in any sense risking his sense of responsibility in regard to it; without taking away any of the truth of the statement that as he sows he reaps, we all feel that "There is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them as we will." Shakespeare got it out of human life, and the conviction is in human life still. To the transfiguration of events, too, there is common testimony. All of us who can look back some years know how utterly we sometimes mistook the bearing of the events through which we were passing. Ruskin says he has never known anything of what was most seriously happening to him till afterwards. Is not that true of all in a measure? What you called an accident has become the ruling factor in your lot; what you called a chance meeting has deposited the most permanent influence in your life; what you intended perhaps for your success has turned out a hindrance; what you thought was going to crush you into a final defeat has been the greatest blessing to you. 'Tis passing strange! and life is full of it. Crete cries out from the burden of years, and Greece ventures to the rescue. The way is blocked; nothing can be done. Greece proclaims war against Turkey, and Prince George goes to the front. Someone blunders badly, Greece is hopelessly beaten, and the iniquitous Turk revels in victory. Crete is doomed, then! No — wait; slow-footed Time will bring another message. The defeat of Greece lays an obligation on the Powers to give Crete freedom, and the time comes when Prince George becomes himself Governor of the island, and instead of the groans of oppressed men you hear the chanting of Te Deums and the voice of thanksgiving; and soldiers, instead of holding the people in terror, are pelted with flowers by little children. There have been things as strange as that in your life and mine; storms have wrought for peace, troubles have brought us strength, and we were helped from unexpected quarters. We look back to-day, and we see a great deal of our own folly and fault, and their results, but do we not also see the hand of God? But whatever you are, though bad and wicked, if you still feel there is a God above you, whose hand has been in your life though you have rebelled much, a God of mercy and redemption, a God with a great purpose which cannot be defeated, even yet the future throws open its golden doors, and the unseen powers are ready to guide you to the city of celestial life. Thus far. What for? Why alive to-day? That you may go on in the Divine life, on to do God's work, on to use God's power, on to manifest God's beauty, and at last to take your own proper place in the Eternal City of God.
(T. K. Williams.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then went king David in, and sat before the LORD, and he said, Who am I, O Lord GOD? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?