Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies,
the king said to Nathan the prophet, "See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent."
(2 Samuel 7:1-2)
After having waited for a very long time, David was finally made king of Israel. He knew full well that he owed God every little bit of that. God had chosen him, protected him during the years of persecution by Saul and destroyed his enemies for him. David knew that he was in God’s hands and that not he was strong, but God.
This is the present setting; David is at rest in the brand-new palace he had built for himself, peaceful because the Lord had given him rest from his enemies. And while he is in his palace, he begins to think about the covenant ark.
David’s Love for God
This fact in itself is quite remarkable. David had won a lot of battles and built a wonderful palace, but still he thinks about the things of God. Matthew Henry comments about the stark difference between David and Nebuchadnezzar in their palaces – While the former thinks about God’s glory, the latter is blinded by his power and cannot think about anything but his own glory: At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:29-30)
David is different. After having done many great things for the cause of God ever since he defeated Goliath because of his blasphemy, he still cannot stop thinking about his Lord. In fact, he cannot even take pleasure in his house of cedar unless God have one! He is the opposite of the rich people Amos speaks of: Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall, […] who drink wine in bowls and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! (Amos 4:4.6)
David’s Knowledge About God
There’s a lot to learn here. David knows that he owes God everything: Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it. (2 Samuel 7:18.21)
From the previous chapter, we also know that he strongly feared the LORD and revered him (2 Samuel 6:5-15). He loved him with all his heart to the point that he could not stop thinking about him (see e.g. Psalm 119:97). And he cared so much about him that he absolutely wanted to give what he had (which he had received from God in the first place) for God’s glory.
David is a good role model on this issue. When God’s providence gives us peace, possessions and little harm or work, we may pursue God all the more fervently. It’s great to be able to serve our Lord during work, trouble and persecution, but we should not forget to seek his presence and pursue his will during our free time and holidays.
What Can We Give Our Creator?
However, there are things that he did not know: He did not yet fully grasp that God cannot be confined into small spaces (or a theology limited by our imagination) by man. Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. (Acts 7:48-49)
God also does not require our honor; How could we be so foolish as to think that we could somehow increase his glory when it is he who made us and gave us everything we have, including the very breath with which we praise or reject him? “What kind of house will you build for Me?” says the Lord; “Or what place is there for My repose? Was it not My hand which made all these things?” (Acts 7:49-50) We do not have the slightest thing that we could give him, or do for him. He doesn’t need us!
Humility before God
At the end of the chapter, David humbles himself before God in a deeply beatiful way. I already quoted verses 18 and 21 above, which show just how humble David becomes after God replies to him. The final lesson that I want to draw from the text is this: True humility, reliance on God’s grace and trust in his perfect plan produce great joy and absolutely beautiful worship.
David’s remarkable focus on God’s power and will, deep understanding of how frail he was as opposed to God’s absolute power and might as well as his trust in God’s guidance and protection produced humility at the deepest level within him. This humility produced thankfullness, which in turn brought forth great joy in God. This is the essence of worship: Humbly enjoying and praising God for what he is, what he has done and what he gives us!
Let us try to balance these two characteristics that our love for God should have; Let us make God the center of our lives, seeking our pleasure, wisdom, guidance and relief in his word, as the psalmist says (Psalm 119). Let us also remember that Jesus is our savior, that our hands are empty before his throne and that we cannot do anything but cling to his cross. We fully rely on his saving grace! We cannot “give” God anything, only thankfully accept the salvation he freely gave us and everything else that he keeps giving us!
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45
And whatever we do, let us glorify the Lord our God with our words and deeds! Let us rejoice in him forever and ever as Paul commands: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)