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.
Here God reminds David that even the tent is unnecessary because God is with David no matter where he goes. God was with David when he was a shepherd. God made him into King David. God was with him in battle. God’s presence is dynamically mobile and cannot be trapped in tent or building.
God says that all of this has happened for David out of God’s great concern for people. God not only brings David to his rest, but will do the same for the children of Israel. God also promises to create a space for the people of Israel where they will “be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall not afflict them”. God needs no house. God’s concern is that people have a home; a safe place to thrive.
Our passage wraps up with God flipping things around on David. God declares that instead of David building God a house, God will build David a house. Again, not a physical house with brick and mortar (for those things pass away), but a house of people made with flesh and blood. God declares that David’s offspring will also share in God’s dynamically mobile and intimate presence. God will raise this offspring up and establish this offspring’s kingdom forever. In fact so intimate will this relationship be that it will be a Father/Son relationship.
No wonder post-resurrection preachers reinterpreted these texts to show “the offspring” to be God’s only begotten son. In fact, when we read this week’s gospel, we continue to see the glory of God still dynamically and intimately moving among the people God is concerned for. So, let us continue to proclaim and embody the priorities of God. Let us be more concerned for people than we are with buildings. Let us be dynamically mobile and intimately present in the lives of the people God continues to shepherd through us.