Chapter 16 ends once the ceremonies were complete and the maintenance assignments were given David returns to his house.
Chapter 17 opens with David in his house having a conversation with Nathan, the Prophet, about David's desire to give God a permanent structure. David notes that he lives in a house of cedar while the Ark is in a tent. (not THE Tabernacle, which won't be reunited with the Ark until Solomon gets the Temple built.).
A House of Cedar and a Tent
Initially, Nathan tells David to go for it (building a temple for God). He tells Him do what's in his heart because God is with him. But later that night, God specifically tells Nathan that He doesn't need a structure. David is not to build it.
It's interesting that this change of answer is included in the scripture. No explanation accompanies it, though. So we are left to speculate:
- Nathan made a mistake. He answered without asking God; misheard; misunderstood; or some other error that God actively corrected the because this is such a serious topic.
- Nathan didn't make a mistake. Maybe he had a standing order to support David unless noted otherwise. Maybe his understanding was that David was king and God was with him, so David should follow his instincts. Or some other reason that Nathan said the right thing in the evening and again later in the evening, even though they seem to contradict one another.
- God changed His mind. Not in the sense that God was wrong and not questioning God's providence and timelessness; but as He changes His mind occasionally throughout the Word when He allows our choices to play a part in his will.
There are differences in the account in II Samuel:
- When Nathan first approves David's plans he says, "Go, do all that is in your mind, for the Lord is with you." But I Chronicles the word is translated heart. It's in the same story. and it's the same Hebrew word (lebab). Why would it be translated differently?
- The history presented by God is a little different; but I wonder how much of that is translation as well?
- Here's a big one: In the II Sam 7:14 version it mentions "when he commits iniquity", so it seems obvious it is Solomon; but in the I Chronicles version, that is removed and the section is streamline to read more like Jesus. I wonder if the difference is in perspective. When the author of II Samuel was capturing God's words he was explaining the covenant going forward, so the description was of both Solomon and then, later, the Messiah. But that era had passed by the time Ezra was describing the covenant. Solomon and his iniquities were behind them- now the covenant would be made complete by Christ, who would not commit an iniquity, beyond taking on ours.
Something happened between the evening and later in the evening. We can't know what happened for sure. The reason I'm mesmerized by it is that whatever caused the change, the conversation went from "I want to build a nice structure for the Ark." to God's covenant with David (and the rest of us). That's an amazing trajectory shift.
I'm sure there are many learned theories; but I only have two. Either God was going to do this all along and it just happened after Nathan had already given an answer--seems unlike--or David did something to bring about the change. Probably something that God was waiting for. The only thing that makes sense is David sincerely expressing the desire to honor God above himself.
Remember the context to this scene. David has spend months and it took two attempts to get the Ark of God to Jerusalem. Then they have a celebration, then he assigns the gatekeepers, musicians, worshipers, and all of the rest of the ceremony and requirements.
It was a big, big deal. Probably an all consuming deal. In II Samuel 7:1, the parallel story to this one, that this whole process began when God had given David rest on all sides. So he had dominated the region and wasn't warring. He hadn't gotten into the sinning phase yet. This was what his heart was consumed by. I don't think we're told why he wanted to move it, No one else had. And he'd spent most of his adult life on the run; so he probably didn't tend toward sentimentality. But he loved the Lord and knew God's Word. And he wanted the Ark of God with him in the City of David.
And now it was done. Mission accomplished. Yay. But also an end. And then he went home to what was probably more of a palace or mansion. He had been single-mindedly focused on bringing the sacred seat of God to the capital and maybe he realized, for the first time, it was just going to sit in a tent. A nice tent for sure. With lots of people attending to it. But a tent none-the-less.
That had to feel weird. Your the king; but He is the God of the Universe. I can see the desire to want to continue in his efforts to honor God by making a majestic place for Him.
And God seems to have a two-pronged, seemingly contradictory, response.
First, he declines the offer and, sort of, seems to chastise David for thinking that a man could provide adequate shelter for the Lord God. He says He hasn't "...dwelt in a house since the day I brought up Israel to this day." It almost has the tone of a parent making clear to a child that, "Thanks, but I don't eat mud pies." He points out that he has never asked any of their leaders to make Him a home.
[On a side note, I wonder if that means that He changed how He dwelt before He brought up Israel. If that is referring to the pillar of fire and other physical manifestations? He said that He has gone from tent to tent and from one dwelling place to another. I think there's a lot there to unpack someday; but there's also a significant danger in reading too much into a scripture without researching.]
And then, immediately following the rejection to the offer, there is a remarkable, miraculous, seismic shift in God's response.
"I took you from shepherd to king."
"I gave you victory and a fame."
"I made a place for my people and subdued their enemies."
"And I will make a house for you."
Didn't we just read that David has four houses and will eventually have ten houses, just in Jerusalem. And he's living in one now made with fine imported cedar? He has a house. So there must be more here.
Then God goes on to establish a covenant with David that stretches through eternity and includes taking us all home to His kingdom through salvation in Jesus Christ.
That's quite a conversation shift.
"No, my child, I don't want or need your silly little offered house. In other news...I am pledging to your and your line a kingdom that will not pass away."
Amazing. We not only serve an amazing God; but we have a loving Father.
And I think it happened because God saw in David's heart and in David's words and in David's actions a man who truly desired to honor God. I think I cringe a little bit every time I hear that David is a man after God's own heart- knowing the sour turn the story is about to take. But I think it just sunk in why. David was pursuing God's honor with everything he had. And it showed in ever part of his life.
And considering the rogues' gallery of leaders that proceeded David, including many of the judges and Saul, David looks an even better prospect.
So God goes ion to establish the Davidic Covenant with David. The II Samuel passage seems to lean more toward describing Solomon as the one to, eventually, build the house for God that David desires to build-- mostly because of the reference to iniquity.
But the I Chronicle version seems to be more of a clear shot forward in time to Jesus Christ, who builds a house for God through His own body. He makes a way, by overcoming death and leaving behind His Holy Spirit, for us to be that house for God to dwell. That sentence is surreal. Hard to get the mind around. But we are the Temple. We can be what David wanted for God-a home for Him. He doesn't need it. He can dwell anywhere He wants. But He desires to be with us.
Very humbling. I didn't earn it. I don't deserve it. I'm not worthy of it. I'm actually a pretty bad bet- as I am inclined to do and not do many of the things He wants of me. But blessed am I that He is not using me as the standard for it. But instead, I Chronicles 17:14 reads that it is because of the throne of Jesus, established by God Himself, that I am allowed this privilege.
I occurred to me that my eternal covenant with God was established the same way David's was---by offering God a home. Me. What a gracious and miraculous thing He offers us. This same covenant. To live with the Lord forever, in His kingdom, at great expense to Him. And just like David, God offers it to us while knowing the mistake ans sins we are going to commit after the covenant is established.
Well, I have been working on this post for a week and I'm still only at verse 15. I think I'll have to respond to David's response in another post.
Before I hit submit, if you're reading this and have not yet invited Jesus to come and live in your heart, forgiving your sins, and being your Lord, I beg you to do so now. He offers a hope and purpose, and joy, and eternal life that this world cannot offer. Amen.