14 January 20222 Samuel 7:1-17
'Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me.' (v.16)
Even leaders endowed with the spirit of God cannot be sure that their plans are always right and achievable. At the beginning of today's reading, David, now comfortably settled in a palatial ‘house’ proposes to build a ‘house’ (ie temple) for the ark (verses 1-3). The prophet Nathan at first encourages David, only to correct himself later in the light of God’s word ("Thus says the Lord", v. 5).
David is portrayed as the greatest imaginable king Israel could ever have, as his personal story suggested (verses 8-9). This chapter promotes the view that David must never be upstaged. But looking back from a much later period (when 2 Samuel was written), it seems odd that David did not build Jerusalem’s greatest treasure, the Temple. His son Solomon built it. The explanation in Nathan’s speech however ensures David’s prime place in Israel’s settled history in Palestine (v. 10). Whereas the building of a ‘house’ ( ie temple) was delegated to Solomon, David was given an unqualified promise from God of a ‘house’ (ie dynasty) that would last for ever ( verses 11, 16).
Throughout later generations the ideas in 2 Samuel 17 were hotly contested.
- Many continued to believe that an ark in a tent, moving from place to place, was a better metaphor for God’s presence than a stone temple.
- Many highlighted the danger the Temple posed, of leading people to think God literally dwelt there (though that is avoided in v. 13, in which God says the Temple is "for my name").
- Other traditions insisted that God’s promise to David of a permanent ruling dynasty was conditional on his successors obeying God’s law (eg 1 Kings 9.4-9).
Even so, a strong stream of reflection emerged reinforcing verse 12 and emphasising the faithfulness of God’s love (Psalm 89:19-37). When kings were no more, this transmuted into the expectation of the coming Messiah, an eternal king of David’s line.
- Trust is built on promises being kept; if they cannot be kept, a credible explanation must be offered. The most demanding testing-ground for these themes is the family, and related intimate relationships. In the maelstrom of trust given and trust betrayed, promises forgotten, or pledges marginalised by intervening events, the need for penitence arises and the freedom to offer forgiveness. Who helps you when this is particularly difficult?
- Who will pray with you for the renewal of love when fractures have appeared in a relationship? Are there ways your church could be more helpful?