II Samuel 7:1-17
7 After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2 he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.” 3 Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.” 4 But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying: 5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. 7 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ 8 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies. “‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you:12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’” 17 Nathan reported to David all the words of this entire revelation.
1. David’s Noble Idea 1-4
This part of the story begins with very good news: “Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” We are not surprised at this because we are aware that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (Hebrews 1:17). Apparently the blessings of God on the house of Obed-Edom was for the ark’s sake and this was a great stimulus to David to finally bring it to Jerusalem, Verse 12 says, “So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing.” David evidently acted promptly. He knew from God gave David rest from his enemies and he now is living in a house of cedar. David has become quiet and undisturbed, having no need go to the battlefield. He had rest from all those that were enemies and tried to hinder his way to the throne, and he set himself to enjoy that rest. Though he was a man of war, he was for peace. Psalm 120:7 says, “I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.” Yes, David fought and successfully so, but he did not delight in war. He had not rested at home very long nor would he be there very long, but at present, when he enjoyed calm, and in his element, when he was sitting in his house, meditating in the law of God, he thought of building a temple for the honor of God. He had, with Hiram’s help, built a palace for himself and a city for his servants; and now he thought of building a place for God’s ark.
We do not have an equal relationship with God since He is far superior to us, but we do have a reciprocal relationship with Him, when He does something good for us it is proper to reciprocate, to try to do something that will bless Him. David wanted to show his gratitude for the honor God had given to him. We too should look for ways to bring God glory when we consider what He has done for us. David would use the days of calm and rest by doing something for God. What can I do for the Lord? Of course, to obey Him is the first thing, but in addition to that what can we find to do? For a time David was not needed in battle, but he could busy himself doing something else for God. So can we.
Rest could make us want to enjoy luxury and become lazy but we will resist that. In Daniel 4: 29-30 we find another king, Nebuchadnezzar, thinking very differently. “Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, ‘Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?’” That proud man thought of nothing but his might, power, honor and majesty. How did God react? God resists the proud, and gives grace and glory to the humble.
David, rested in his house and thought for a while about how blessed was, how nice his house was and quickly remembered the ark of God protected only by curtains. David thought it was inappropriate that he would dwell in cedar and the ark in a tent. David had worked hard to find a place of the ark and now he thought he would continue to work hard to find a better place. Grateful people never think they can do enough for God, though they have done much they still want to do more. They will not enjoy their own comforts if they see God’s Church in need. Some have David’s music, but not his heart.
In Amos’ day this was God’s message to the people: “You lie on beds adorned with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.” In the days of Ezra, the Israelites returned to their homeland in order to rebuild the temple, “Then they gave money to the masons and carpenters, and gave food and drink and olive oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre, so that they would bring cedar logs by sea from Lebanon to Joppa, as authorized by Cyrus king of Persia.” (Ezra 3:7)
Nathan evidently was an optimistic and affirming man. His default reaction to hearing a new idea was to approve, “Yes!” The Lord always has the authority to negate what we say, but is it not indicative of an affirming and loving person to instinctively think the best and affirm another unless there is a reason not to? Nathan said, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.” His was a good attitude and usually good advice. However, all the plans, dreams and ambitions of men are subject to the Lord’s approval. So we learn another important lesson through Nathan’s role in this story. God spoke and everything changed. “ But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan” (v4). We want God to speak. And we are glad to change everything when He speaks. God is God.
2. God’s Thoughts About Places of Worship 5-7
God entrusted a message into Nathan’s care. And the result is that we have a better revelation of God’s favor to David. God sent it by the same prophet who just the day before had encouraged David to do whatever was in his heart. Speaking through the same person would have eliminated any confusion that might have arisen from hearing “yes” from one prophet and “no” from another. But David did not keep in his heart anything that was not also in God’s heart. He released his vision. If you and I want to see God work through us, we must follow David’s example and release our visions and dreams to the One who has better ones. God spoke the same night so that Nathan would not continue in an innocent error and David could be spared from dreams he would never be able to fulfill. God can give dreams and visions and we need to appreciate them and work for their fulfillment, but, by the same token, we need to give God the right to remove dreams and visions that are not His from our heads. Joel 2:28 says, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” We need dreams that are from God. David was the king—the head—but He needed God’s prophet to be his eyes.
God supersedes David’s purpose to build a house for God. God noticed that purpose, for He knows what is in man; and apparently was well pleased with it. Solomon later said, as is recorded in I Kings 8:18, “But the Lord said to my father David, ‘You did well to have it in your heart to build a temple for my Name.’” Yet God stopped David, “Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt.” 1 Chron. 17:4 says, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: ‘You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in.’” I have other work for you, Israel’s borders must be expanded, you are a poet and Psalmist, write more poems and Psalms. Nathan did not say this, but he could have: Your son’s architectural skills and greater treasury than yours will be better suited to building a temple. Materials need to be gathered and prepared and that will require many years of work. The tabernacle has been quite adequate and will continue to be satisfactory.
God’s presence can be in a tent as well as it can be in a temple. God walked with his people Israel and a tent was better suited to that. The tent moving from place to place kept God with His people. David was uncomfortable that the ark was in curtains, yet those curtains had a message of their own. They provided a movable place for God to be with His people. God never complained that it was uncomfortable for Him. Verse 6 says, “Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’” Christ, was like the ark when He tabernacled among us, walking around, doing good until he ascended into heaven where He sat down and began another phase of His ministry.
So the church (saints) being both pastoral and militant is like the ark, moving around among the people of the earth. David, in his psalms, often calls the tabernacle a temple. Psalms 5:7 says of the tabernacle, “But I, by your great love, can come into your house; in reverence I bow down toward your holy temple” because it, though made of curtains, fulfilled the intention of a temple, though it was made but of curtains. This question raises a more important one: Is show or substance more important? It is probable that David had a truer devotion and sweeter communion with God in the tabernacle than his successors did in the temple. What God ordains is better than what man builds. Worship instituted by God is superior to what man can devise. Why should David design what God never ordained? Better a tent approved by God than a temple invented by man.
Verse 7 includes an important phrase for every Christian leader to seriously ponder. Verse 7 says, “rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people.” God says here that the rulers he appoints are to shepherd his people. To shepherd is generally considered to include these kinds of things: to go in front of, lead by example, protect from enemies and danger, feed, rescue from danger and provide rest. A ruler and a shepherd illustrate two different kinds of leaders. Jesus said this about earthly rulers, “Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:25-28). May the good Shepherd teach us by His example, and may we under-shepherds readily learn, what it means to “shepherd God’s people.
3. God’s Plan for David and Israel 8-11a
God reminded David that he was favored in three wonderful ways, even though he would not build the temple. First, “I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel” (8). God had raised David from a very common, plain and low condition: “I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock.” If we remember our small beginnings it might help us be humble and thankful. If God did this for David, then David would be responsible to God, not to man. Second, “I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you” (9). God gave David success and victory over his enemies. How many times during David’s exile had God helped him? What a great blessing it is to have God with us. Through Nathan God reminded David that He had been “with” him. I protected you when you were pursued. “I have cut off all your enemies from before you.” Then third, and this one is a surprise, a promise of something in the future, “I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth” (9). God said He would crown him with power and dominion in Israel and honor and renown among the nations. David would become famous for his bravery, behavior, and accomplishment and will be more talked about than any of the great men of his day. If a great name brings glory to God, so be it. The glory brought to God is the important issue; not the person through whom glory is brought to God. However, we may pass through the world quite comfortably yet in obscurity.
God promised David a quiet place: "I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed” (10). That had been promised long before, yet they were disappointed, but now that appointment should be made good. Canaan will now be theirs. Furthermore, an enjoyment of that place was promised. What good is a place if the place cannot be enjoyed. “Wicked people will not oppress them anymore as they had at the beginning” (10). This would be a reference to the Philistines who had been such a problem to them for so long. That is to say, “I will continue and complete that rest; the land shall rest from war, as it did under the judges.”
4. God’s Plan for the Line of David 11b-17
Psalms 128:6 says, “May you live to see your children’s children—peace be on Israel.” God promised David a blessing for his family in following generations. God responded to David’s desire to build Him a house by saying, no, I will build you a house. “The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you” (11). We will not lose our reward for whatever we do or offer to do for the Lord. Would it not be a great encouragement to David to know that his family would do well in generations to follow? We want happiness in generation to come for our souls, God’s church and our seed. While we are praising God in heaven our seed will praise him on earth.
Some of these promises are for Solomon, his immediate successor, and the whole royal line of Judah. “When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom” (12). This favor was not promised to Moses, Joshua or any of the Judges, but God gave this promise to David. “He (referring to Solomon) is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” God would use Solomon to do what David had hoped to do. God intended to adopt Solomon: “I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands: (14).
What a great blessing it is to have God for our Father. If God is a careful, tender, magnanimous Father to us, we should be obedient, amenable and compliant children to him. Loving correction is included in God the Father’s relationship with the children He loves. It is as though God were saying: I will consider his frame, and correct him tenderly and compassionately, no more nor less than is needed. I will correct him, but I will not abandon him. “But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you” (15). I will not disinherit him. Notice how love and correction are placed together in the message from God to David. Parents, take note.
Other promises relate to Christ, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever (15). The angel said to Mary, as Luke 1:32 records, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.” The Son of David received all power both in heaven and earth, and authority to execute judgment. He was to build the gospel temple, a house for God’s name. Zech 6:12-13 says, “Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’” And this was fulfilled according to Heb. 1:5 in which God claims Jesus as His Son, “For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”? David’s house and kingdom long ago came to an end, but the Messiah’s kingdom is everlasting. God would never need to chastise or correct the Messiah, but He does and will correct the followers of the Messiah. True believers have their weaknesses for which they may expect to be corrected, but not cast off.
“Nathan reported to David all the words of this entire revelation” Nathan gave a different message this next day but a prophet is not free say whatever he thinks; he is God’s prophet. David did not build God a house, yet God built David’s house. Such is the nature of our relationship and agreements with God. Some of our intentions, we do not fulfill, others we cannot fulfill, but God is dependable, faithful and unchanging, and if we focus our attention on His plan we will not be disappointed.
May the Lord, the good Shepherd, give everyone who reads or hears these words, the wisdom, understanding and character to put into practice in their positions as Christian leaders, the valuable lessons we learn about Christian leadership from these three words: “Shepherd my people.”