7. Building God’s House (2 Samuel 7:1-29)
One of my favorite movies is “Crocodile Dundee,” and one of my favorite scenes is when Dundee is in New York City walking down the street with his girl friend. Suddenly, from out of the shadows, a gang of thugs emerges. One of the hoodlums brandishes a knife and demands that Dundee hand over his possessions. Calmly, Dundee looks at the thugs before responding, “That's not a knife . . . this is a knife!” And he pulls out an incredibly large knife, which makes the would-be mugger’s switchblade look like a penknife as the thugs flee for their lives.
This scene reminds me of our text. David has just completed the construction of his palace. He looks out and sees the ark of the Lord, housed in a tent, and then begins to wonder. . . . A plan begins to formulate in his mind. Why not build a house for God, a temple? So David calls his friend and confidant, Nathan the prophet, and outlines his intentions. Nathan hastily consents, thinking that David's plans for such a “house” will be pleasing to God. But that night, Nathan is corrected by God, and he has to return to David with his revised prophetic evaluation. Through Nathan, God speaks to David. It is as though God were looking down at the blueprints which David had drawn up for God's “house.” God then looks at David and says, in effect, “David, that's not a house, . . . this is a house.” If David thinks he can build a house for God, he is wrong. It is God who plans to build a “house” for David. And what a house that will be. Let us listen carefully to the words of our text and learn what kind of a house God will build for David, and how it surpasses the temple-house David wants to build for God.
This is a very crucial text in the Old Testament. One can hardly over-estimate its importance not only for David, but for Israel and all mankind.
“Walter Brueggemann identifies this David and Nathan story as 'the dramatic and theological center of the entire Samuel corpus . . . one of the most crucial texts in the Old Testament for evangelical faith.'“25
Our text contains what theologians have come to call the Davidic Covenant, one of the great covenants of the Bible. We shall seek to explore the meaning and significance of this covenant in this message.
David's Plan and a Prophetic Approval
1 Now it came about when the king lived in his house, and the LORD had given him rest on every side from all his enemies, 2 that the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within tent curtains.” 3 Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your mind, for the LORD is with you.”
David has come a long way from his sheep-tending days as a young lad. It has just begun to dawn on David that God has established him as king over Israel (2 Samuel 5:12). The Philistines have twice sought to overthrow him, and twice David has defeated them. The enemies around Israel are, for the time being, at peace with David. With the help of Hiram, king of Tyre, David has completed his own palace, and he is now living in royal splendor. David now has the time to devote to other enterprises.
After a failed first effort, the ark of God has been successfully brought to Jerusalem, housed in a tent. David may have been looking out from the rooftop of his palace, his eyes fixed on the tabernacle-tent in which the ark was kept. Somehow it seems inappropriate for David to live in such splendor, while the ark of God is kept in such plain and seemingly provisional surroundings. The idea comes to him that he can build another house; this second house will be a temple in which the ark can be kept in far more fitting surroundings.
It is settled in David's mind. That is what he will do. And so David confides in Nathan the prophet, who seems also to be a friend and confidant of the king. How can such a generous gesture possibly be wrong? Why shouldn't God have a more fitting dwelling place? And so, without consulting God, Nathan gives David the go ahead. In effect, Nathan says to David, “Sounds good to me, and I'm sure it will be okay with God as well.” In biblical terms, Nathan says, “God, do all that is in your mind, for the LORD is with You” (verse 3).26
A Vision and a Revision
4 But in the same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying, 5 “Go and say to My servant David, 'Thus says the LORD, “Are you the one who should build Me a house to dwell in? 6 “For I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the sons of Israel from Egypt, even to this day; but I have been moving about in a tent, even in a tabernacle. 7 “Wherever I have gone with all the sons of Israel, did I speak a word with one of the tribes of Israel, which I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, 'Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?””
I remember years ago when I was a part of the administration of a small college. Actually, there were two schools. One was a college, and the other was a remedial educational program, designed to bring educationally handicapped young people up to a college level. I was not a part of the college program, but of the remedial program. When the college needed a teacher, I thought I had the perfect candidate. The problem was that the dean of the college had already made his decision. Unwisely, I spoke to the president of both schools, and he encouraged me to go to the dean with my idea. That was not a good thing to do. The dean's response to my suggestion caught me completely off guard. “Mr. Deffinbaugh,” he responded rather hotly, “who is running this school, you, or me?” Oops. I was in trouble. By the way, he was right. My idea was just that, and I was not the one running the school.
Nathan could surely identify with how I felt that day. In the middle of the night, God gives Nathan a direct revelation, which he is to convey to David. In a way, it put both Nathan and David in their place. Like me, David had a bright idea, but it did not correspond with God's plan. The question which God asks David sets the tone for what is to follow: “Are you the one who should build Me a house to dwell in?” Oops. I like the way Eugene Peterson puts it:
“But there are times when our grand human plans to do something for God are seen, after a night of prayer, to be a huge human distraction from what God is doing for us. That's what Nathan realized that night: God showed Nathan that David's building plans for God would interfere with God's building plans for David.”27
Before we go any further, it is time for me to point out a couple of significant details. Note that in verses 1, 2, and 3 David is referred to as the king, but when God refers to David, He calls him My servant David (verse 5). I think it is safe to suggest that David is a little too conscious of his position as king. Now in relation to all the people of Israel (and those outside Israel for that matter), David is the highest authority in the land. But in relation to God, David is merely a servant. David is living in a palace, and God is living in a tent, at least in David's mind. David almost appears to be wanting to give God a helping hand. It would be like me, wearing a tuxedo, sending Ross Perot a gift certificate to buy himself some decent clothes. It is for this reason, I believe, that God appears to put David in his place, first by referring to the king as His servant, and second by saying to him, “Who are you to be building Me a house?”
We should note yet another detail here. This very issue of the value of a temple, as opposed to the tabernacle, is addressed by Stephen in Acts 7:
44 “Our fathers had the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, just as He who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern which he had seen. 45 “And having received it in their turn, our fathers brought it in with Joshua upon dispossessing the nations whom God drove out before our fathers, until the time of David. 46 “David found favor in God's sight, and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47 “But it was Solomon who built a house for Him. 48 “However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says: 49 'HEAVEN IS MY THRONE, AND EARTH IS THE FOOTSTOOL OF MY FEET; WHAT KIND OF HOUSE WILL YOU BUILD FOR ME?' says the Lord, 'OR WHAT PLACE IS THERE FOR MY REPOSE? 50 'WAS IT NOT MY HAND WHICH MADE ALL THESE THINGS?'“ (Acts 7:44-50).
Stephen had been brought before the Sanhedrin on trumped up charges, one of which was that he spoke against the temple (Acts 6:13). Stephen did not deny the charge brought against him by false witnesses. Instead, he defended himself by pointing out from the Old Testament Scriptures that God was not nearly as impressed with the temple as the Jews were. He argued that God gave Israel the tabernacle, and that the temple was David's idea. He then went on to show that the God who created all things surely cannot be confined to a dwelling made by human hands. In short, God did not need a temple, and He did not ask for one. He allowed David's son to build the temple because David wanted it. It wasn't wrong; it just wasn't God's idea. God did not need a temple, and for some, a temple would convey the wrong message.
Second Samuel 7 is in agreement with Stephen's argument. In verses 6-11a, God explains to David why He does not need a temple made by him. The first reason is given in verse 6 and can be summed up in these words: “If it isn't broken, don't try to fix it.” Think about it. Why buy a new car if your present car performs perfectly? When God gave the law to Moses, He instructed him as to how a tabernacle should be constructed. Throughout Israel's history, from Mt. Sinai to the reign of David, the tabernacle had functioned flawlessly. God was with His people as the ark was kept in the tabernacle. And when the people moved from one place to another, the tabernacle and the ark went with them. God was with His people wherever they went. He gave them victory over their enemies. He gave them the possession of the promised land. Israel's history bore testimony to the fact that there was nothing to fix; the tabernacle did the job very adequately. If it isn't broken, don't fix it.
In verse 7, God gives yet another reason for there being no real need for a temple: “I didn't ask for one.” On Mt. Sinai, God gave Israel the law through Moses, and in this law, He specified how the tabernacle was to be constructed, how it was to be moved, and who was to care for it. God instructed the Israelites to build the tabernacle; He did not even ask for a temple. If a temple were needed, surely God would have asked for one, and since He did not ask, we must conclude it was not necessary.
In verses 8-11a, God gets to the heart of the matter. I want you to notice how often the pronoun “I” is found. This section is very clearly God-centered. I like the way Peterson puts it:
The message that Nathan delivers to David is dominated by a recital of what God has done, is doing, and will do. God is the first-person subject of twenty-three verbs in this message, and these verbs carry the action. David, full of what he's going to do for God, is now subjected to a comprehensive rehearsal of what God has done, is doing, and will do for and in David. What looked yesterday like a bold Davidic enterprise on behalf of God now looks picayune.28
Does David want to offer God a helping hand by building Him a better house in which to live? God reminds David Who is taking care of whom. Would David do something great for God, like build Him a temple? History would remind David (and us) that it has always been God helping us, not us helping God. David, God's servant, should recall that it was He who took him out of the pasture, from following (not leading) the sheep, and made him ruler of all Israel (verse 8). God has been with David, wherever he went, and it was He who gave David's enemies into his hand, resulting in his fame and reputation. It is God who has always come to man's aid, and not man who rescues God.
In verse 10, there is a significant change in the tense of the verbs. Previous verbs are in the past tense, referring back to what God has done in the past. Now, in verse 10, the verbs become future. After pointing out all that He has done for David and Israel in the past, God goes on to say something like: “David, My servant, you have not seen anything yet. The best is yet to come.” God promises to appoint a place for His people where they will be planted. They will have a place of their own (as David intended to give God a “place of His own”), and they will dwell in peace there because the wicked will no longer afflict them. It won't be like it used to be, from the time of the judges till the present. God will give David rest from all his enemies.29 Would David dare to think he could do something for God? It was God who gave David all that he had, and it was God who would give him yet even more.30
The question must arise: when are these promises to David fulfilled? It is clear that they were not yet fulfilled, for they are expressed as a future reality. Some might think they are fulfilled in the next three chapters (8-10), when David prevails over all his enemies who surround Israel. I don't think we can see a complete fulfillment in David's lifetime or even in that of his son Solomon. I believe these promises to David are fully realized only in the coming Kingdom of God, when the Lord Jesus Christ subdues all His enemies and establishes His kingdom on the earth. It is that time spoken of in the last chapters of the Book of Isaiah. These promises are given to David here because they pave the way for the promise God is about to make to David in the following verses, the promise to build a “house” for him.
The House God Will Build For David:
The Announcement of the Davidic Covenant
11 . . . The LORD also declares to you that the LORD will make a house for you. 12 “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 “He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, 15 but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.””' 17 In accordance with all these words and all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David.
The story of this chapter begins with David's intention to build a house (a temple) for God. God gently rebukes David for this heady plan. David has taken the wrong posture, of helping out God, rather than being the one who has constantly been helped by God. God did very well in taking care of His people when He associated Himself with the ark and the tabernacle. God did not ask for a temple, because He did not need one. God has been behind all of David's successes, and now He is promising even greater glory. And now God returns to the subject of a “house.” Would David build a house for God? No, he will not, though his son will. But God now announces to David that He is going to build a “house” for him. The details concerning this “house” are laid out in verses 12-17.
This prophecy, like many others, has a near and a distant fulfillment. On the near end is Solomon, David's second son by Bathsheba. It is he who will take David's place and reign over Israel after his death. We know that Nathan's words must refer to Solomon because they include the fact that David's “son” will sin, and that God will correct him. This statement cannot be made of the Messiah, the Son of David who will come to take away the sins of the world and to sit on the throne of His father, David. Unlike Saul, whose dynasty was taken away, David's “house” (his descendants) will be a dynasty, and will reign over Israel.
The descendants of David -- his “house” -- will enjoy a very unique and privileged relationship with God. It is described as a father/son relationship, or should I say a Father/son (and Father/Son) relationship. In the Bible, to be a “son” sometimes means much more than just being the physical offspring of one's father. The term “son” is employed to refer to one who rules in the place of another (the father). Adam was the “son of God” in the sense that he ruled over God's creation as His agent (see Luke 3:38). Satan and the angels are also referred to as “sons” of God in this same sense. Here, Solomon (David's descendant) is also referred to as enjoying a Father/son relationship with God.
In this sense, one does not become a “son” at one's birth; a king becomes a “son” of God when God installs him upon the throne:
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. 5 Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury, saying, 6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” 7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. 8 'Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. 9 'You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware”' (Psalm 2:4-9, emphasis mine).
This is exactly what God announces to our Lord Jesus Christ. God calls our Lord His “Son” at His baptism (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22) and at His transfiguration (Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35). Peter makes mention of these words, linking these words to the transfiguration (2 Peter 1:17). The writer to the Hebrews also makes use of these words as proof that Jesus was the promised Jewish Messiah (1:5; 5:5). In 5:5, the author of Hebrews specifically refers to our text in 2 Samuel 7:14 as having been fulfilled in Christ. In Acts 13:33, Paul turns to these words in Psalm 2 as having been fulfilled in Christ, particularly in relationship to His resurrection from the dead.
This word “son” or “sons” is also used of those who have come to faith in Jesus Christ. When we are saved by faith, we become the “sons” of God. This term “sons” not only means we become a child of God, but that we become those who will reign with Him:
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body (Romans 8:18-23).
When Christ returns to this earth and we are raised from the dead, we are adopted as sons in Christ, and we shall reign with Him for all eternity.
David will have sons, and these sons will become “sons” of God in that they will rule over Israel. But there will come one very special “son,” and through Him all of the promises God has made here and elsewhere (pertaining to the Kingdom of God) will be fulfilled, either in His first coming, or in His return to the earth. David will have many sons, who will reign after him, and he and his sons will become “sons” of God. But the greatest promise of all is that a very special “son” will come, who is a descendant of David, and His kingdom will be eternal. It is in this “Son” that all of David's hopes, all of Israel's hopes, all of our hopes are fulfilled. And this is the essence of the Davidic Covenant. God will give David sons who rule in his place, but God's promises will be fully and finally fulfilled in that special “Son” who is yet to come.
These words, spoken by Nathan, are the very word of God. They are given to Nathan in the vision, which necessitates a “revision” of the permission he has given David to build a house for God. God thus speaks to David through Nathan. These are the sure word of God.
18 Then David the king went in and sat before the LORD, and he said, “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that You have brought me this far? 19 “And yet this was insignificant in Your eyes, O Lord GOD, for You have spoken also of the house of Your servant concerning the distant future. And this is the custom of man, O Lord GOD. 20 “Again what more can David say to You? For You know Your servant, O Lord GOD! 21 “For the sake of Your word, and according to Your own heart, You have done all this greatness to let Your servant know. 22 “For this reason You are great, O Lord GOD; for there is none like You, and there is no God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears. 23 “And what one nation on the earth is like Your people Israel, whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people and to make a name for Himself, and to do a great thing for You and awesome things for Your land, before Your people whom You have redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, from nations and their gods? 24 “For You have established for Yourself Your people Israel as Your own people forever, and You, O LORD, have become their God. 25 “Now therefore, O LORD God, the word that You have spoken concerning Your servant and his house, confirm it forever, and do as You have spoken, 26 that Your name may be magnified forever, by saying, 'The LORD of hosts is God over Israel'; and may the house of Your servant David be established before You. 27 “For You, O LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have made a revelation to Your servant, saying, 'I will build you a house'; therefore Your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to You. 28 “Now, O Lord GOD, You are God, and Your words are truth, and You have promised this good thing to Your servant. 29 “Now therefore, may it please You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue forever before You. For You, O Lord GOD, have spoken; and with Your blessing may the house of Your servant be blessed forever.”
We should pay attention to the principle of proportion in this chapter. Two verses are devoted to David's expressed desire to build a house for God (1 and 2). One verse is devoted to Nathan's hasty response (3). Verses 4-17 record the vision which Nathan receives and his communication of this revelation to David (14 verses in all). The last 12 verses record David's response to this revelation. David now has his “house” in order. He sees things from God's point of view. These closing verses of chapter 7 are David's response to the Davidic Covenant. I contend that they provide us with a pattern for our worship as well.
Verses 18-21 are an expression of David's regained humility, of his realigned self-appraisal. Here is the kind of self-esteem that ought to characterize every Christian, especially (but by no means exclusively) in worship. At the beginning of chapter 7, David is a little too full of himself. Three times he is called “the king” in the first three verses. He is also referred to as “the king” in verse 18, but only to highlight the change in David's thinking from earlier in the chapter. It is not found again in this chapter.
Is David impressed with his position and power, with being the king? Does David think more in terms of what he can do for God than in terms of what God has and will do for him? Well, he has it right now, at least for the moment. Instead of finding the word “king” three times in verses 18-21, we find the word “servant.” Are we surprised? That is what God calls David in verse 5. David now stands in awe of the fact that God takes him, a man of no status or standing, and makes him king of Israel. This too is what God has reminded David through Nathan (see verses 8 and 9). David sees his standing and status as Israel's king as the result of God's sovereignly bestowed grace, and not as the recognition of his potential greatness. It is amazing how pride and arrogance distort our thinking. No wonder humility is the starting point, the prerequisite, for wisdom (Proverbs 11:2; 15:33; 18:12; 22:4; 29:13).
David is now starting on the right foot. He sees himself as he really is in God's eyes. He recognizes his weakness, his insignificance. He is struck with awe and wonder that God would choose to use him. He is not puffed up with his power as king of Israel, but humbled by the awareness that God uses him as His servant. Now, in verses 22-24, David thanks and praises God for who He is, as demonstrated by His marvelous works on behalf of Israel and David in the past. Verse 22 encapsulizes that self-revelation of God in Israel's past. God is God alone. There is no other god; there is no God like Him. He is a great and awesome God. This is in accord with all that they have heard of Him and from Him.
God has done great things for David, but these were not done for David. God has worked in David and through David, to bring about the fulfillment of His promises to the nation Israel. Verses 23 and 24 recount the greatness of God as revealed in His acts on behalf of His people, Israel. These verses sound remarkably similar to the words of God through Moses in Deuteronomy:
7 “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our God whenever we call on Him? 8 “Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today? . . . 32 “Indeed, ask now concerning the former days which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and inquire from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything been done like this great thing, or has anything been heard like it? 33 “Has any people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard it, and survived? 34 “Or has a god tried to go to take for himself a nation from within another nation by trials, by signs and wonders and by war and by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm and by great terrors, as the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? 35 “To you it was shown that you might know that the LORD, He is God; there is no other besides Him. 36 “Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you; and on earth He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire. 37 “Because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them. And He personally brought you from Egypt by His great power, 38 driving out from before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in and to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is today” (Deuteronomy 4:7-8, 32-38).
David sees himself as Israel should have seen herself. It is not due to her greatness, not due to her size, not due to her merits, that God chose to bless her. It is His sovereignly bestowed grace, apart from works or merit:
10 “Then it shall come about when the LORD your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, 12 then watch yourself, that you do not forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 “You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name” (Deuteronomy 6:10-13).
10 “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. 11 “Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; 12 otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, 13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 15 “He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint. 16 “In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end. 17 “Otherwise, you may say in your heart, 'My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.' 18 “But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 8:10-18).
David has fallen into the very trap that God warned Israel to avoid. He has begun to take credit for what God has done. He begins to think of God as dependent upon him, rather than to worship God as a dependent creature. When David sees life from God's point of view, he sees life clearly, as it is. He sees life as Israel was supposed to view it. Now he is thinking clearly, and when he does, he recognizes that both he and Israel are great by the grace of God and nothing else. And for this David humbly praises God.
In verses 8-10, God reminds David of His blessings in the past. In verses 10-16 God promises David even greater blessings for himself and for the nation Israel in the future. In verses 22-24, David praises God for His grace in the past. Now, in verses 25-29, he will petition God to do as He has promised, and at the same time he worships and praises God for the things He will yet do. David picks up on the promises which God has just made, on the Davidic Covenant, which He has just made, and makes this the basis for his petitions. In short, David prays for what God has promised.
David is not just repeating God's promise back to Him; he is now putting this promise and its fulfillment in its proper perspective. David was wrong to think in terms of his successes. God reminds him that all of his apparent successes were really gracious gifts from His hand (see verses 8-9). And so too the things which God promises David in the future are gracious gifts (see verses 10-16), for which He is to be praised. And so David now petitions God to fulfill these promises, not so that David's name will be exalted, but in order that God's name may be magnified (verse 26).
Through Nathan, God gently rebukes David for his arrogance in thinking he could build a suitable dwelling place for God, that he could better assess the need for one than God. This kind of rebuke tends to cause one to wish to hold his tongue indefinitely. Have you ever said something very stupid, with a whole lot of folks listening to you do so? If you have, then you know the urge never to speak again in public. David has that same feeling, but God's promise of an eternal house gives David the courage to ask God for the fulfillment of this very promise (verse 27).
Verses 28 and 29 continue the petition, reminding God of His promise, and asking Him to fulfill it. The reason for David's confidence is God, and not himself. The presumptuous self-confidence that characterizes David in the early verses of this chapter is gone, replaced by a humble confidence, based in the God who made it. God has promised this good thing to His servant (not, to the king). The promise is clear, and it is made by God. Any promise made by God is a sure thing, and thus David petitions God for its fulfillment. May the promise be fulfilled by the blessing of David's “house,” and may this blessing come from the God of all blessings. Finally, David prays that this blessing will be eternal. Such blessings can only be God's blessings.
The first lesson I learn from our text is that even our highest, most noble ambitions and goals are flawed by sin. David's desire to build a house for God is so lofty even Nathan is taken in by it. Who could fault David for wanting to build God a glorious house? God could and did. And the reason is that David's motives and his ambitions fall far short of what God intended. David seems to have become a little too caught up by his recent successes, by his own position and power, and even by the splendor of his own palace. God's response to David most certainly contains a rebuke to David's arrogance: “Who are you to be building Me a house?” No matter how pious my plans for God and His work appear to be, they fall far short of the purity of thought and motive God requires. In the final analysis, there is nothing we can do for God in our own strength. It is God who must accomplish great things through us, and very often in spite of us.
Related to this first lesson is yet a second lesson: No matter how high and lofty our goals and plans may be, God's plans are greater. Paul put it this way:
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? 35 Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen (Romans 11:33-36).
But just as it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND WHICH HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Does David plan to build a house for God? David could not even imagine the “house” that God was going to build for him. God's “house” far surpasses David's proposed “house.”
Third, the greatness and glory of God's presence and power are not to be interpreted in the light of how spectacular the surroundings and setting are. Long ago Elijah was taught that God's presence was not to be assumed in the midst of spectacular phenomenon (although sometimes He does employ the spectacular -- see Exodus 19, 34). God was not present in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire, but in a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13). The disciples to some extent, and the Jews in large measure, expected the Messiah to be revealed by means of the miraculous and the spectacular, and thus the frequent demand for a sign. The Corinthians of the New Testament came to regard those with style and sensationalism as the most spiritual, while at the same time they came to despise those who were less spectacular, like Paul and the other true apostles (see 1 Corinthians 4; 2 Corinthians 4-6). Our Lord Himself did not come in a blaze of glory and sensationalism. He came with his glory veiled (see Isaiah 53:1-3; John 1:9-11; Philippians 2:5-8), and thus many failed to recognize Him as the Messiah. The second temple was not nearly as spectacular, but in God's eyes, it was glorious. The true glory comes not in the external surroundings, but in the fact that God Himself is among us, indwelling us, His body. We should learn from David and from others in the Bible that God's glory is to be found where God is present, and not necessarily where we see the spectacular.
Does David suppose that God will be more present in a spectacular temple than in a tent? He is about to be reminded that God is “enthroned upon the praises of His people” (Psalm 22:3). God has chosen to dwell in a very different “temple” these days; it is the “temple” of His body, the church:
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).
4 And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:4-5).
In the eternal kingdom of God, there will be no “temple” as such, for our Lord Himself will be the “temple”:
“And I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Revelation 21:22)
Fourth, we see that David does not need a temple nearby in order to worship His God. In fact, David is drifting away from worship when he proposes the construction of a temple. It is after David has been reminded that all he is and all he accomplishes is of God that he begins to worship in the right manner. He then begins to acknowledge his own insignificance and to praise God for His greatness, power, and presence in his life. This is where all true worship begins, not in a spectacular building, but in focusing on the greatness and the grace of our God.
There is a great deal of emphasis these days on the planting and building of churches, great churches. Planting churches is a good thing, and the building of large churches is not necessarily evil. But let us be on guard against the false assumption that larger and more impressive buildings are proof of God's presence and power. We need to be on guard against prideful thoughts of our own contribution to the kingdom of God, of thinking that God really needs us. It is always He who will be carrying us, rather than us carrying Him. How easily we begin to focus on what we have done and can do for God, rather than on all He has done and will do for and through us.
Fifth, David's divine rebuke should serve as a lesson to every Christian. Have you not thought that if you could ever grow up, ever gain maturity and wisdom as a Christian, that you would somehow become exempt from temptation, and protected from sin? Growth, maturity, and success do not insulate us from sin; often, these things can easily become new temptations for us to sin. David is in more danger in his palace than he was fleeing from Saul and hiding out in some cave. Too often we take our “successes” far too seriously. We should be reminded that there is no success that we can honestly claim as our own, for every spiritual success is a gift of God's grace:
For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7).
Finally, I am once again reminded that the greatest blessings of our lives are not the result of our labors, but always the result of God's work, and often as He uses our failings and shortcomings. David is rebuked for requesting to build God a temple, and yet out of this request, God promises to build a house far greater than David could ever imagine. David is wrong when he commits adultery with Bathsheba and kills her husband, but in spite of this, she becomes David's wife and the mother of Solomon, the next king of Israel. David is wrong to number Israel, but as a result of this sin, the property on which the temple is to be built is procured by David.
What a wonderful and awesome God we serve! We cannot thwart His purposes and promises. And even our efforts to thwart His purposes only serve to advance His kingdom. Let us rejoice that God no longer dwells within a tent or a temple, but in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His body, the church. We are God's house if we have trusted in Jesus Christ.
25 Walter Brueggemann, I and II Samuel (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990), p. 253, as cited by Eugene H. Peterson, Leap Over A Wall: Earthly Spirituality for Everyday Christians (Harper San Francisco, 1997), p. 166.
26 We should not be overly surprised at Nathan’s response, or the fact that he did not directly consult God. While prophets did speak directly for God from time to time, often they taught from God’s Word and gave their judgment about the application of the Law to real-life situations. They did not seek a direct divine response for every question they answered, so far as I see in the Scriptures. In this case, however, Nathan judged wrongly, and God directly responded to correct his judgment.
29 The “you” here is singular, not plural. While God will give Israel rest from their enemies, this is not God’s point. He made David the king of Israel. He protected David and gave him the victory over his enemies. Likewise, in the future, God will give David (“you” singular) rest from his enemies. It was God who gave David what he had gained. It was God who would give David what God promised him for the future.