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Proper 11B Alt 1st Reading

What does a warrior king do when there are no more wars to fight? Traditionally, they start a building campaign and in this regard, David is no different. King David compares his house to the Temple and the Temple comes up short. Surely God deserves a better house than the king. So he decides to do something about it. At least he started with the right motives and decided to build something for the One who had “settled him in his house and given him rest from all his enemies” (vs 1). He seems to know what God would want him to do: but does he?

David informs Nathan the prophet of his intentions and Nathan wholeheartedly says “Yes”. As a pastor, I would really be tempted to say a quick “yes” if someone came to me and said, “I want to build a better sanctuary for the church”. The prophet seems to think that because this building project would be for God it must be the right thing to do. Surely God would be okay with this. It must line up with God’s magnificence and glory. But does it?

Both prophet and king learn something about God and God’s priorities by the next morning. In fact all of our lectionary passages ring out these beautiful priorities. God is more concerned with people than with monumental buildings (or rituals in our epistle reading). God’s glory is dynamically mobile and intimately present among people rather than trapped in a single location. And when humanity gets those priorities wrong (even with the right motives), God reveals those priorities again through creative blessings.

To his credit, Nathan listens to the Voice of YHWH and declares these priorities to King David.

7:7 Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”

God seems perfectly content to be among the people. If you’ve ever been camping you know that a tent is more intimate and mobile that a house. You hear your neighbor’s every conversation, cough and snore. This does not seem to trouble God in the slightest. God seems to be perfectly at ease with letting God’s glory be intimately present with the children of Israel. God wants to hear the conversations, see the community and be with humanity (snoring, coughing and all). God seems uninterested in having a fixed place where everyone has to come. God is the God who dwells among and still longs to walk in the cool of the evening with human beings.

Nathan goes on to remind David of God’s dynamic mobility and declares YHWH’s words

7:8 I took you from the pasture, from following sheep to be prince over my people Israel;

7:9and 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.

7:10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more.