Because of Your promise, and according to Your own heart, You have wrought all this greatness, so that your servant may know it. Therefore You are great, O LORD God; for there is no one like You. (2 Samuel 7.21-22)
“None Like You”
As a young person eager to grow in faith, I studied adults in my family and faith community closely, watching how they behaved in and out of church, listening to how they prayed, and staying attentive to shards of Scripture peppered through their conversation. (In those days, the saints were so conversant with the Word it routinely surfaced in their casual speech, often as no more than a phrase wedged into a sentence. It’s an art that, alas, has fallen from fashion.) Kids have innate sensors that flag sincerity and sham, and with little effort I gravitated to believers whose best practices I admired and hoped to emulate.
One of my greatest faith mentors was Rev. Eugene Gray, youth minister to a large church I adopted as my second home. As he took me under wing, I soon discovered what an uncommonly tender man he was; if a hateful thought crossed his mind during the years I knew him, it never passed his lips. Gene’s prayer mannerisms first drew me to him. In service, he prayed extemporaneously, with the confidence of a son who knew his father had all the answers and could do anything. A feature I truly loved was how Gene “sent” God to troubled souls. “Somebody is sick and without hope. Look in on them,” he’d pray. “Touch their bodies and lift their spirits… A mother’s son is languishing in prison. Speak to his heart and shield him from harm… Somewhere a teenager feels unloved and alone. Take her in Your arms. Let her know she’s Your child.” You didn’t have to be called out in Gene’s prayer for it resonate. Whatever your struggles, his assurance extinguished all doubt God saw you and was with you.
I learned where Gene’s trust originated during our prayer times together. Away from the pulpit he laid a hushed love feast before the Lord. He neither hurried nor tried to impress. He just talked to God, always starting with a list of thanksgivings that couched his requests. “Because of all You’ve done, I know You’ll do what’s best,” he’d say. Once he ended his requests, he hung around for quite awhile, simply to express how wonderful God was to him. He frequently latched on a phrase—usually from David’s psalms or prayers—and repeated it over and over, pausing to let it sink deeper into his heart with each repetition. “There is none like You,” he’d say. “None like You… None like You,” echoing David’s awe at God’s unfathomable kindness in 2 Samuel 7.22: “There is no one like You.” Gene’s been gone for many years, but his best practices survive in thousands who rarely end a prayer without telling God, “There is none like You.”
Utterly Bowled Over
David’s prayer, covered in 2 Samuel 7.18-29, is less about asking God for anything than extolling everything God is. In fact, God’s already spoken to David through the prophet, Nathan, answering many of the young king’s questions and soothing his anxieties. David’s so utterly bowled over, he sits down by himself and talks to God. To get the full effect of what he says, we should back up. In quicksilver time, David ascends Israel's throne, defeats its perennial enemy, the Philistines, and installs the Ark of the Covenant housing Judaism's holiest relics in the Tabernacle, a vast tent in which Jews have worshiped since Moses’s days. After the festivities, David looks at his palace and suddenly feels guilty about living in opulence while the Ark rests under a ragged canopy. Building an even more lavish temple seems the proper thing to do. But God puts the brakes on his idea, saying, “You don’t need a new project. It’s more important you slow down, get your bearings, and reflect on how far I’ve brought you. From shepherd boy to king—this wouldn’t be possible without Me. I promise to give you a son endowed with wisdom and skill to construct the greatest temple the world will ever know. Leave that to him. All I want from you is to realize how far you’ve come, because you’ve a long way yet to go.”
Totally undone by God’s kindness, David doesn’t know where to start. So, naturally, he does his best to say what words can’t describe. Yet he somehow manages beautifully. (Check out the entire prayer in the postscript and you’ll be amazed.) He’s still enthralled and tremendously humbled by the enormous palace he now calls home. “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house that you have brought me thus far?” he exclaims. (v18) He uses “house” in both senses—Israel’s royal residence as well as the House of David, the dynasty promised to him. Then he runs dry. “And what more can David say to you?” he asks in verse 20. Plenty, it turns out, once his thoughts turn from all God has done for him to what God wants him to know. His prayer comes to life in verses 21-22: “Because of Your promise, and according to Your own heart, You have wrought all this greatness, so that your servant may know it. Therefore You are great, O LORD God; for there is no one like You, and there is no God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears.”
Greatness That Constantly Amazes
So easily we’re flummoxed by how far we’ve come, where we are, or how far we’ve yet to go. God has brought us over great expanses pocked with rugged, unpredictable terrain; we look back and wonder how we got where we are. It’s tremendously humbling to realize our lives are richer and bigger than we ever imagined. And God's promises for greatness in store makes us lightheaded. Our first instinct is to do something worthy of the kindness we’ve received—to keep going full speed ahead. Yet the word spoken to David comes to us. It’s important we slow down, get our bearings, and reflect on where we’ve come from because there’s something invaluable that God wants us to know before we venture on.
There is no one like God, no god besides God. Anything we may attribute with our progress thus far—intellect, tenacity, courage, curiosity, support systems, insuperable hurdles, and even what some call plain old good luck—every blessing (including those we initially perceive as curses) would not be were it not for God. There’s not a power known to humankind or a force in this universe that compares to our Creator and Keeper. God is precisely Whom Gene Gray’s prayers projected—the Parent with all the answers, Who can do anything. Or, as David puts it, the Source of greatness that constantly amazes us. What more can we say but, “There is none like You”? That says everything. And that’s what God wants us to know.
When we recollect the great things You’ve done for us in the past, O God, the great blessings we presently enjoy, and imagine ever greater things ahead, we’re so utterly bowled over we sit down and try to say what words can’t describe. With nothing more to say, we thank You because You’re You. There’s no one like You. None. Amen.
It’s important we slow down, get our bearings, and reflect on where we’ve come from because there’s something invaluable that God wants us to know before we venture on.
Postscript: David’s Prayer
"Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that You have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in Your eyes, O Lord GOD; You have spoken also of Your servant's house for a great while to come. May this be instruction for the people, O Lord GOD! And what more can David say to You? For You know Your servant, O Lord GOD! Because of your promise, and according to Your own heart, You have wrought all this greatness, so that Your servant may know it. Therefore You are great, O LORD God; for there is no one like You, and there is no God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears.
"Who is like Your people, like Israel? Is there another nation on earth whose God went to redeem it as a people, and to make a name for Himself, doing great and awesome things for them, by driving out before His people nations and their gods? And You established Your people Israel for Yourself to be Your people forever; and You, O LORD, became their God. And now, O LORD God, as for the word that You have spoken concerning Your servant and concerning his house, confirm it forever; do as You have promised. Thus Your name will be magnified forever in the saying, 'The LORD of hosts is God over Israel'; and the house of Your servant David will be established before You."For You, O LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to Your servant, saying, 'I will build you a house'; therefore Your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to You. And now, O Lord GOD, You are God, and Your words are true, and You have promised this good thing to Your servant; now therefore may it please You to bless the house of Your servant, so that it may continue forever before You; for You, O Lord GOD, have spoken, and with Your blessing shall the house of Your servant be blessed forever." (2 Samuel 7.18-29)