“‘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.'”
(2 Samuel 7:8-14)
By this time, Saul has died in battle and David has established himself as King of Israel. However, the transition is by no means smooth and the kingdom is briefly split. Initially, David is made king of Judah – the Royal Tribe – (and Benjamin) and Saul’s son Ish-bosheth is made king over the other tribes. There is then war between the two kingdoms, culminating in the murder of Ish-bosheth. His murderers bring his head to David, expecting to be rewarded for having rid him of his enemy, but instead King David commands that they be executed.
After this, all Israel comes over to David, recognising him as their rightful king, and the kingdom is united (2 Samuel 5:1-5). This is then followed by three crucial events: firstly, Jerusalem is taken from the Jebusites, and established as the royal city of Israel (2 Samuel 5:6-10); secondly, a house – the royal palace – is built for David in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:11-12); and thirdly, after an aborted attempt, the ark of the covenant is brought to Jerusalem, accompanied by much feasting and rejoicing (2 Samuel 6:12-15).
And so with Israel united, with rest being given from their enemies, and with the king now settled on his throne in his palace in Jerusalem, there is for the first time since Israel entered the promised land a real sense of permanency. And in this permanency David naturally turns his thoughts to the question of establishing for the first time a permanent place for the ark of God, which is still dwelling in a temporary home.
Reasoning to Nathan the prophet, David tells him that it just isn’t right that whilst Israel’s human king now has his glorious palace made of cedar wood, Israel’s true king – Yahweh – still lives in temporary accommodation. Nathan agrees with his assessment and tells him to do all that is in his heart – that is, go build a house for God. Yet that very night God appears to Nathan and tells him to go back to David with this message: No, you will not build me a house. Actually, I’m going to build one for you – that is, I will establish the Davidic kingdom.
Having begun by reminding David that it was he who took him to make him prince, God goes on to give him a message peppered with “I wills”:
- I will make for you a great name
- I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them
- I will give you rest from all your enemies
- I will make you a house
- I will raise up your offspring after you
- I will establish his kingdom
- I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever
- I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son
You get the picture. Notice that much of the promises here are echoes of, and amplifications of the promises given to Abraham. God had promised to make Abraham’s name great. He had promised land to his offspring. He had promised to make him a great nation or kingdom. He had promised blessing to him and his offspring and that he would curse his enemies. And he had promised that through his offspring the world would be blessed.
But why won’t God let David build him a house? 1 Chronicles 28:3 tells us that it is because David is “a man of war and has shed blood”, and so the one to build a house for God must be a man of Shalom – Peace. But it is also a reminder to David that just as salvation is God’s gift to us, and not us doing something for God, so too the architect of the Kingdom of God is God, not us.
And yet God does use humans to build his kingdom. And so at the end of that series of “I wills”, we find one notable exception. Instead of “I will build a house for my name,” we read, “He shall build a house for my name.” The “He” spoken of is of course David’s son, Solomon, who builds the Temple on Mount Moriah, the very place where God provided Abraham with a ram to sacrifice in the place of his only son, Isaac (see the thoughts for Day 8), and who establishes his rule “over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt” (1 Kings 4:21). And yet as we shall see, Solomon’s reign ends ingloriously, and once again we see a promise of God awaiting its true fulfilment, this time in the raising up of another son of David to build a house for Yahweh and to sit on the throne of the everlasting kingdom.