Friday 18 January 2019

Bible Book:
2 Samuel

'The Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.' (v. 11b)

2 Samuel 7:1-17 Friday 18 January 2019

Psalm: Psalm 53


The logical next step in David’s programme to establish himself as the Lord’s anointed king over Israel is to build a temple. It does not seem to him to be fitting that he lives in luxury in a palace whilst the symbol of God’s presence is accommodated in a tent. Building a temple would also emphasise the divine favour and act as a sign of political unity. The plan seems obvious, so much so that when the king discusses it with his religious advisor, Nathan, the prophet does not even pause to think but assures him that God approves.

Nathan discovers that God does not approve and he has to return to the king (presumably the next day) to disclose an oracle that he has received in the night. In this passage, the word ‘house’ is used in three ways (all of which are reflected to some degree in English usage). A house is a place where one lives – David says ‘I live in a house of cedar’ (v. 2). But it is also used for ‘temple’; God challenges David’s plan: ‘Are you the one to build me a house?’ (v. 5). Then, as the oracle unfolds, ‘house’ shifts its meaning again to mean ‘family’ or ‘dynasty’. ‘The Lord will make you a house.’(v. 11).

This is a pivotal passage for a number of reasons. It is key to the history of the Temple, explaining why the shrine was built by Solomon and not by David. It also establishes for the first time in the account of the people of Israel the hereditary principle: the kingship is to be passed from father to son. And, thirdly, it is the root of the Messianic hope that in various forms followed from the collapse of the Davidic kingdom when Jerusalem was taken by the Babylonians in 587 BC. Nathan is instructed to promise David that the dynasty will continue ‘forever’ (v. 16).

Key to this passage is the understanding of the presence of God that it implies. David is reminded of his own background as a shepherd, an occupation that inevitably would have taken him away from the settled world of domestic dwellings. The leaders of Israel have always been shepherds (v. 7); in the background is the story of the Exodus and the people’s wanderings in the wilderness under the leadership of Moses (another shepherd). Even though God consents that an house for the ark can be built, that is not the main locus of God’s presence. God’s presence is to be found in the steadfast love with which he accompanies those through whom God has chosen to work.


To Ponder:

  • This is the beginning of the account of the temple in Jerusalem, a site that has been fought over for many centuries. What do you pray when you "pray for the peace of Jerusalem"?
  • David’s concern is that his house seems a better residence than the house of God. How does your place of worship compare to the place you call home (in terms of its comfort, warmth, decor, and maintenance)?
  • Nathan has to change his mind about what God is saying to David. Have you had to admit that you got it wrong about something that seemed obvious? How did you discern that you had been mistaken?
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