After [David] the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”
2 Samuel 7:1-2
I listened to this chapter of David’s reign today, and it made me scratch my head. David has just brought the ark of God to Jerusalem after its many years in exile away from the spiritual heart of Israel. He’s so jazzed about it that in his enthusiasm he doesn’t do his research and gets a man killed by transporting the ark incorrectly (2 Samuel 6:1-11). Then, when they finally get it to Jerusalem, he embarrasses himself by dancing half-naked in the streets (2 Samuel 6:14-15).
Obviously he is excited to have the ark, the earthly throne of Israel’s God, back in a place of prominence. He wants to build a permanent home for the peripatetic relic.He chats with his prophet friend, the one with the direct line to God, and Nathan originally tells him to go for it. But then God speaks to Nathan and tells him that David is not allowed to build a resting place for the ark, but as a consolation prize, that God is going to bless David’s kingdom and make it everlasting.
Basically, all God tells him is that “your heart is in the right place but I want someone else to do it.”
After years of being hunted by Saul, then a few more years of war with Saul’s descendants, God has finally fulfilled his original promise that David would be king, and David is g.r.a.t.e.f.u.l. I don’t know about you, but if I had this awesome idea that I thought would honour God and he CRUSHED it and said “nope, not for you”, I would be cheesed.
Although, I suppose if in the same breath God promised to make me the queen and make my queen-dom everlasting, I might not be so miffed. 😂
In David’s following prayer, he doesn’t even mention the temple he wanted to make. No whining, just more praise and thanksgiving. Impressive.I’m sure there are many people smarter and more well-read than I that have better suggestions as to why God didn’t let David build the temple, but here’s my theory.
It wasn’t David’s skill-set.
David was a visionary and a people-mobilizer. He built an army out of a bunch of vagrants, he had the king of the Philistines eating out of his hand at one point, and even the commander of his enemy’s army saw his vision and switched sides. I think God needed him to finish the job of subduing Israel’s enemies and building a strong kingdom.
Solomon, his son, was the master builder.
Of course, that’s easy to see in retrospect. Kudos to David for not holding a grudge against God for crushing his dream when he didn’t have the blessing of retrospect!
This morning at Bible study we were talking briefly about what passions God has placed within us; what societal problems make us cry out and want to do something; what situations birth compassion in us and spur us toward action. It was an interesting discussion because I started to see how God has made each one of us differently, and how important it is to pray about what steps we should take in each situation.
We had a conversation about what to do when a panhandler asks for money. Some people say “no, never” and some people give if they have change. Is there a single right answer? I don’t think so.
Maybe that panhandler is going to use your money to foster his addiction or maybe he’s going to get on a bus to visit his mom. Since we don’t know people’s thoughts and plans, I think in each situation we need to pray and ask God to help us make the right choice.
Because, just like with David, I may think I have this awesome idea, but it might not be what God wants me to do. At least not right now. And that’s why we have to be in tune with him!
I think one of the most important parts of this passage is that David consults Nathan. This isn’t just a friend-to-friend chat, or even a king-to-counselor chat. In the days before the general outpouring of the Holy Spirit, contact with God was different. Instead of everyone having a direct line to God, only a limited number of people did. Like Nathan. Basically, David prayed. He invited Nathan to give him God’s stamp of approval on the building project. Good thing he did, because obviously it wasn’t in the plans for David!
So where does this leave me? It leaves me with a gentle reminder from God that I can’t just commit my plans to him; I need to be in open discussion with him about my life. I can’t just start doing stuff willy-nilly, thinking “oh what a great thing I’m doing for God!” I need to check with the Boss first. Find out what the orders are, or if he’s not giving orders, at least what the general ballgame is.
How about you? Have you ever experienced God changing your plans? I’d love to hear your story!