An enduring house
Go tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord has said: Do you really intend to build a house for me to live in? I have not lived in a house from the time I brought the Israelites up from Egypt to the present day. Instead, I was traveling with them and living in a tent. Wherever I moved among all the Israelites, I did not say to any of their leaders whom I appointed to care for my people Israel, ‘Why have you not built me a house made from cedar?’’ 2 Samuel 7.5-7
As we come to 2 Samuel 7, it is interesting how God seems to say no to David’s request to build a temple building to replace the tent. Now we know that the tabernacle was destroyed in Shiloh (Jeremiah 7.12), so it doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request of David’s to build a permanent building. It isn’t even in the building that God had originally planned. Instead, it is in a new tent which may or may not conform to the instructions in Exodus about the tabernacle. So David seems to be wise as he is building his own palace to build a house of worship for the Lord. In essence, however, God says, ‘Why bother?’
There are perhaps many different reasons for this. For one, God is not bound to space and time. A permanent building indicated that God permanently resided in Jerusalem and wasn’t accessible in say, Galilee. The tent was the place where Israel met with God and not just God’s space time location in all of creation. Additionally, we must look at God’s promise to David to take note of a greater reality taking place. God’s response to David’s request to build a building is to turn David’s request on its head. Instead of David building a building for God, God would build a building for David. Isn’t this an amazing inversion? Look at verse 11 and following: ‘The Lord declares to you that he himself will build a house for you. When the time comes for you to die, I will raise up your descendant, one of your own sons to succeed you, and I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for my name, and I will make his house permanent. I will become his father and he will become my son…’
At first you’d think he was talking about David’s son Solomon who builds the temple, but I wonder if the words might be prophetically looking towards the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Jesus fulfills God’s promise to David to an even greater extent: it is because of Jesus that David’s throne is established forever. Even more than that in the gospel of John, Jesus is said to have dwelt among us: tented among us. Jesus is where man met with God. It isn’t a coincidence that one of the main charges against Jesus was his claim to destroy the temple. But the whole point was that on the third day, the temple of his body would be raised. Jesus in fact, as he took on humanity, became a greater meeting place with God, and he has replaced the temple that King Herod built.
So then what is the importance of the 2 Samuel passage? For us, it anticipates an enduring kingship. At first we read in the biblical histories the establishment of David’s line, but this line of kings ends in disaster. It really is quite astonishing how the throne goes from David to Solomon, who both have some pretty huge faults but still seem to be establishing an enduring kingship. But after these two kings, the Davidic kings seem to be headed toward disaster. Ultimately the Babylonians remove David’s heir from the throne and deconstruct the kingdom. Where is this promise fulfilled? We find that Solomon’s line wasn’t established forever. So in Jesus, the enduring kingship is established and he is the forever king, and this is glorious not just because it fulfills God’s word but also because Jesus is the Son of God. Not only does he reign over the people of God, he is ruler over all of creation, and in him the fullness of God dwells. So we meet with God through this king.
Hebrews calls us then to come with boldness to the throne: a throne of grace. In other words, because Jesus is an eternal ruler, let us come to him and present our cares and requests on him. He is able to do more than we can ask or imagine. He upholds the world by the word of his power. Thus we should have no reason for fear or worry. When we are fearful and are worried, it is an expression of our hearts that we think that we don’t have control of the future, and we wish we did. Here instead is Christ, the King: we can present our anxieties to him because he rules over all of Creation and history.