By J.R. Miller
2 Samuel 7:1-16
The ark was in its place, and the worship of the Lord had begun. David had prospered greatly. He was living now in a palace of cedar. One day the king was sitting in his beautiful home, enjoying its comforts and luxuries, when suddenly he thought of God's House on the hill. David was startled when he thought of the contrast between his own fine palace--and the weather-beaten tent which was the home of the ark.
Nathan, the prophet, came in, and David told him that he was going to build a palace for God. Nathan himself approved the king's thought. "Go, do all that is in your heart; for the Lord is with you." But that night Nathan was bidden to tell David that he should not build a house for God. There are several things to be noticed in this incident.
One is that the Lord does not reprove David for his desire to build a temple for Him. It was an honorable desire. We should not make our own houses beautiful and luxurious--and then let our churches be cheap and dilapidated. Five hundred years later the Lord rebuked the people through the prophet Haggai--for living in fine houses and letting His House lie waste.
Elsewhere we learn that God said distinctly to David concerning his desire: "Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for My name, you did well that it was in your heart." God approves of good intentions, even when He does not permit us to carry them out. This ought to be a cheering and encouraging thought to those whose plans God interrupts and sets aside. He is satisfied sometimes with the intention. If we are desirous of doing for God some service which, however good, it is not His will that we should do--He is pleased with our wish to honor and serve Him, though He declines the offer. We are better, too, for the desire. Every lofty wish lifts us nearer to heaven for the time.
There are other important suggestions in the refusal of the Lord to have David build the temple. One is that everyone has his own particular and definite part to do in the Lord's work. David was not to build the temple--that was Solomon's mission; but David had other things to do which were equally important. He had to fight the battles of the nation and subdue the strongholds. Then, he had another work to do far greater than the building of the temple. Part of his mission was to be a hymn-writer for the Old Testament Church. The influence of his songs in all ages, has been most wonderful, and is going on yet, extending and deepening wherever the Bible goes. His mission was great enough, though he was not permitted to erect the temple. Solomon built the temple--but he never could have written David's Psalms. To every man his work.
There are things you cannot do. You have no skill for them. You see some other one do these things brilliantly, and you are grieved because you cannot do them. But they are not part of your work. There are certain things which you can do better than any other person in the world could do them. We need not vex ourselves because we cannot do everything. It never was God's intention that we should be able to carry the whole range of tasks and duties. David could write the Twenty-third Psalm--and Solomon could build a splendid temple.
Another thought here, is that it is the part of some to plan and prepare, while others carry out the plans and complete the work. The temple was born in David's heart; it was one of his thoughts. Then he made costly preparations for it. He bought the site for the great building. He gathered gold and silver in vast abundance and stored them away for the work. Solomon, when he came, had little to do--but to build the house; the materials were ready to his hand. Thus David's part in the temple was, after all, very large.
We are apt to undervalue preparatory work. It is like the foundation of a house. It is buried away, and no one sees it nor admires it. Yet we know that there can be no house for men to admire and praise--unless there is first a foundation strong and secure, laid deep in the earth and covered up. It is the part of many people, to do only preparatory work. Others complete the building and get the glory, while the foundation builders are forgotten. The same thing goes on continually. One sows--and another reaps. One man gathers a church, another organises and builds it up. To each one his work. We should learn to be content with our own particular work, that which has been allotted to us, and not vex ourselves because we cannot have given to us the work of some other.
It is interesting to think of the kind of temples God really wants us to prepare for Him. He has never blamed us for not building houses of cedar for Him to live in. He does not care for houses of wood, even the finest. He dwells in heaven's glory, and no earthly building can ever be worthy of Him. It is right to erect churches in which we may assemble for God's worship--but God does not really dwell in these. He meets with His people there, when they gather to call upon His name--but He does not live in any earthly structure--whether the plain meeting-house, or splendid cathedral. "This is what the LORD says: Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me?"
God tells us that He has two homes--one in heaven and the other in certain people's hearts. "For this is what the high and lofty One says-- he who lives forever, whose name is holy: I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite." We need not trouble ourselves to build houses of cedar for God--but we ought to make our hearts such places as He will choose for His abode.
"This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel." God reminds David of His thought and care for him through all his days. Our lives are plans of God. It will be interesting to the boys--to remember that God thought about David when he was only a boy, that He chose him to be king of Israel when he was only a shepherd lad. God is always watching the boys in their work and in their play, looking among them for men to fill important places in life. If a boy would be called to one of God's high stations and entrusted with a great mission when he is older, he must begin well and be diligent when he is young.
God saw in David, out there in the fields, abilities and habits which he knew would make him a good king when the throne was ready for him. If David had been indolent, negligent, self-indulgent, unfaithful or unkind as a shepherd, he would never have been chosen to be the king of God's people. A boy who was not a good shepherd--would not make a good king. The boy who is a good cash boy or office boy or messenger, or who shows promptness, good sense and fidelity on a farm, in a store, or in lowly duties anywhere else--God will put down for something greater by-and-by. God's eye is ever upon us--to discover whether He may entrust some great task to us.
God is always an encourager. He speaks to David now as if He knows his disappointment in not being permitted to build a temple, and He gives him cheer. David would not build a house for God--but God would build a house for him. This would be a greater honor than the building of a temple would have been. He would be the founder of a line of kings which would have no end. His throne would be established forever. David did not understand it--it was too glorious to be understood then--but the Divine promise included the Messiah and all the glorious blessings which have come from the Messiah-- Christianity and all its wonderful triumphs.
We ask for some common earthly thing. God does not give it to us--but he says: "You shall have this in place of it." Then He gives us a spiritual favor, which includes all heaven's glories! We may safely leave in God's hands--the form of the answer to our prayers. He will always do for us what is best. Many times when we ask only for bits of tinsel, He gives us heaven's gold and jewels instead!
God's plans go on beyond the measure of any little life. David would soon pass away from earth, and he would see no temple built for God. But a son would be born to him who would build a house for the honor of God. Men pass away--but God's work goes on. One falls with his plans unfulfilled and his hands full of work; but another is raised up to perform the unaccomplished tasks. The succession never is broken in God's ministry. He has one great plan, which embraces all His servants from the beginning to the end. Our plans may be set aside--but it is because God has a work which is better. Nothing will fail if we each do but our own little part; another will be ready to begin where we leave off.
We live on in our children. If they are faithful to their responsibility, they carry on the work their fathers have begun. In Solomon, David's house and kingdom should be continued and then made sure forever. As men read history, this promise was not fulfilled. David's personal throne was not established forever. No one can find it now. Antiquarians are searching amid the ruins of centuries for the landmarks of David's and Solomon's reigns--but no throne is in Jerusalem today, nor has there been a throne there for ages. But Bible lovers know well that the promise has in reality been gloriously fulfilled. It did not refer alone to an earthly succession. Christ was the "seed" promised in its full and final meaning. His was the "kingdom," and His the "throne" that should be "established forever." So the line fulfillment passed from earth up to heaven. Christ came of the seed of David, and the throne which we would search for in vain in the city of David stands amid the glories of heaven, and all the redeemed worship and bow down before it.