Today, I stumbled across 2 Samuel 7. The chapter is striking to me because it’s an “aftermath” chapter: David has conquered Jerusalem and the ark of the covenant has been returned to the city. And David, “settled in his palace” to enjoy a thorough and well-deserved rest from all his enemies, only has one thought in mind:
Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains of a tent.
That’s all David says. That’s it. But it’s enough to delight God beyond reason, because He immediately speaks to Nathan that evening:
Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says. Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling.
That verse is where I stumbled across the chapter and then reread it, mostly because God’s plain eagerness caught me by surprise. David’s desire for the Lord to have a “house” provokes an immediate response from God that lays bare one of God’s deepest desires. God wants a home; He has been waiting desperately for a home. But God has never demanded one in spite of how justified He would be in doing so. Rather, He points out to Nathan that He has not asked: “…did I ever say to any of [Israel’s] rulers…’Why have you not built me a house of cedar?'” Instead He waited, eagerly, for a servant to offer Him a dwelling.
Immediately after this, God continues on to dictate the terms of His absolute blessing to the house of David. Because David “is the one who will build a house for my Name,” God announces that He will “establish the throne of [David’s] kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son.” And as if that isn’t enough to express His great love, He adds: “When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him.”
Gee, thinks David, God deserves better than perpetual residence in a tent.
You want to build a house for me? replies God. I’ve been in a tent waiting all this time – but you’ll build a house for me? Then let me build a house for you. I’ll give you everything. All of it. Everything good that I can think of belongs to you, the one who will make a home for me.
The blessing is so lopsided. All David offers is an intention and a desire. But the chapter reads as though God has been waiting for this, for precisely this moment, for the time when – after decades of tent-dwelling and being carted around – one of the people He loves will desire to build a home for Him.
Now, in a time that seems so removed from then, God’s temple exists not externally but within us, where the Spirit of God dwells (1 Cor. 3: 16-17). And the promise remains ever the same. Whenever you are feeling far from God or distant from His love, please remember the divine eagerness of 2 Samuel 7. God wants to be with His people; He wants to be invited to dwell among them and with them. Go back and read that series of verses again, and exult in the sheer delight God displays, His joy over a simple, small human gesture. The Lord of the Universe longs and has always longed to be close, has always waited for a place to make His home, and while once that place was “a house of cedar”…
…now it’s you.