Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.”
But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.
2 Samuel 7:1-17
Is God more interested in what we do for Him or in what He does for us? A world of religions basically teaches that we have to do our best and then hope that God will do the rest. The drive to do great things for God and the impulse to impress Him are deep within the human heart. But the story of Scripture confronts us again and again with pieces that don’t fit the puzzle of doing great things to earn God’s favor. This housing conversation between David and the Lord and in 2 Samuel 7 is one beautiful example.
Who could fault David for wanting to do something great for the Lord? Why shouldn’t he build a house for the Lord? In our accounting models, it makes sense. Imagine David sitting down to reflect on his situation:
The Lord’s greatness is unsearchable; I am just a man.
The Lord has delivered me again and again; now I am King of Israel.
I’m living in a palace, a house of cedar; the Lord lives in a tent.
I know what I’ll do…I’ll build the Lord a house!
The logic is watertight, right? “God has done all this; I should at least do this.” Even Nathan the prophet agrees with David’s building campaign. But then the word of the Lord comes, and David’s building project gets kicked down the road. As the Lord brings what He plans to do into the foreground, David’s grand design moves to the background. David wants to do something great for the Lord, but the Lord intends to do something for David and His people that could never be contained within four walls. The Lord’s promises to David are so great that only the Lord Himself could fulfill them. Jesus Christ, great David’s greater Son, came to fulfill God’s promises to David. Having conquered all of His people’s enemies, the Son of David will reign on His throne forever. Jesus brings the joy of His salvation to all who trust in what He has done, and He continues His great building project through His church, where every member is a living stone.
The next time we think the priority is doing something great for God, let’s remember the Lord’s promise to build David a house. The next time we look at Jesus and say, “You shall never wash my feet” (John 13:8), let’s remember the Lord’s plan to go to the cross. We worship a God who would rather dwell in tents with His people than live in a palace (2 Samuel 7:6-7). We worship a God who put on flesh and moved into the neighborhood (John 1:14). We worship a God who is building us up into a house in which He Himself dwells (Ephesians 2:22). We worship a God who has done for us what we could never do for ourselves. We will never outdo or out-build the Lord. But what might we do if we truly believed and received all that the Lord has done for us?