How foolish we are to think that God needs from us what we desire for ourselves! King David was a wanderer for much of his life. What he desired most was to settle down in peace. When he was finally given that gift, he believed God desired the same thing. He made plans to give God what David wanted – a house where God could settle down in peace.
But God had other plans. God didn’t need a house. God’s place was and is wandering the earth, mobile and versatile. In fact, when God gave King David’s son, Solomon, permission to build a house for God (did God really grant permission to Solomon to build a house, or did Solomon build the house, and then claim God’s blessing after the fact?), the building came with baggage that was severely inconsistent with God’s will for this world. The temple was built on the backs of slaves – it is hard to imagine God would have wanted that.
Maybe God still doesn’t want a house. Maybe God is content to roam the earth unabated. Maybe it’s not for us to tether God to a building, but to open ourselves to see God’s presence everywhere in the world. This whole planet is God’s kingdom. Where might I see God abiding in it?
2 Samuel 7:1-17
Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”
But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. 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?” Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and 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. 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; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever. In accordance with all these words and with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.