David sought to build a temple for the Lord, though instead, the Lord would build David a house. We often refer to the ‘Davidic Covenant’ though it is clear that the Lord is sovereign and guided David throughout the establishment of this covenant.
Earlier, David had ensured the Ark of the Covenant was transported to Jerusalem and he was now dwelling in his house of cedar. Unusually for David, he had been granted rest from his enemies by the Lord. Hence David confided with Nathan, comparing his house made of cedar with God’s tabernacle where the Ark of God dwelt inside tent curtains. From honourable intentions, David desired to build a more majestic house for the Lord to dwell inside. This was no mere upgrade from a scouting tent to a luxury Swiss mountain chalet. God’s instructions for the tabernacle were intricate and precise (Exodus 26).
“It was magnificent for that age, though made wholly of wood: houses made in warm countries not being required to possess the solidity and the thickness of walls which are requisite for dwellings in regions exposed to rain and cold. Cedar was the rarest and most valuable timber. The elegance and splendour of his royal mansion, contrasted with the mean and temporary tabernacle in which the Ark of God was placed, distressed the pious mind of David.”[i]
David confides in Nathan
Nathan was an important prophet and also confidant to David and Nathan is mentioned here for the first time in Scripture. Nathan approved of David’s intentions and added “the Lord is with you”. David and Nathan’s intentions and actions have been evaluated by many commentators and some of them correctly point out that neither of them consulted the Lord. We should make it our godly habit to consult the Lord through His word and prayer.
Others note, that even with the noblest intentions this did not and does not guarantee alignment with His will. On the other hand in 520BC before building the Second Temple, Haggai similarly pronounced, “Is it time for you to dwell in paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins? (Haggai 1:4) ” Those circumstances differed however since Haggai was expressly and obediently conveying the word of the Lord given to him. The bottom line and outcome would be that actually God would build David a house though his family line.
Even the faithful prophets sometimes made mistakes where they deferred to their feelings rather than God’s word. In 1 Samuel 16:6, Samuel presupposed that the Lord had appointed Eliab, though the Lord would appoint David. Hypothetically speaking, what would have happened if Samuel had not listened to the word of the Lord in that instance? How much more should we be careful to ensure that our actions are in line with God’s will, rather than acting on our gut feeling! Solomon confirmed David did well, but recognised that he would build the house (1 Kings 8:18-19).
The Lord would build David a house
The Lord graciously spoke to Nathan to tell David, “Would you build a house for me to dwell in?” In Acts 7:44-50, Stephen spoke of a greater tabernacle and quoted Isaiah 66:1 concerning where God dwells. “Thus says the Lord: Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest?” David desired to build the Lord a house but the Lord would build the house of David’s family forever. Although David had great plans to honour the Lord, God had greater plans to establish an everlasting covenant.
From the time of the Exodus until David, the Lord had moved about in a tent and in a tabernacle. In all that time, the Lord had never asked, “Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?” Crucially, the Lord gave precise, highly detailed instructions for the building and construction of the tabernacle. This shows God’s sovereignty and fulfilment of His plans and purposes. We should never presuppose God’s will. Even if we used all the world’s resources to build a grand temple for Him, are these not all from the things He has made?
The Lord reminded David how he was a faithful shepherd boy, yet the Lord made him a shepherd and ruler over Israel. While David was a shepherd boy, he behaved with courage and godly conduct like a shepherd ruler. How often the Lord forms our character in seemingly small matters, before appointing us for more greater matters. As one interpreter wrote, “God uses our disappointments for His appointments”.[ii] We need to look to Him.
A temple would be a dwelling place for God and they would hope for peace and rest from wars. But it was the Lord who went with David wherever he went, removed his enemies and gave him a great name. Saul killed thousands though David killed tens of thousands. This was all the Lord’s doing. It is humbling and reassuring that in every act we do to serve the Lord, He has enabled and established that for us. Previously when David was appointed king, the Lord had said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one! (1 Samuel 16:12)”
When would Israel be planted to be removed no more and have rest from their enemies? This is partly fulfilled and yet future (Amos 9:11-15).
“On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down,
And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old;
12 That they may possess the remnant of Edom, And all the Gentiles who are called by My name, ”Says the Lord who does this thing.
13 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, And the treader of grapes him who sows seed; The mountains shall drip with sweet wine, And all the hills shall flow with it.
14 I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them.
15 I will plant them in their land, And no longer shall they be pulled up
From the land I have given them, ”Says the Lord your God.
We have seen the agricultural blessing, in part. We have seen and are seeing Jewish people returning to Israel and they have been and are being planted in Israel. Yet they do not have rest from their enemies since Messiah has not returned yet, though He will.
God’s covenant with David was built on established promises, the immediate future and everlasting promises. After David died, Solomon’s kingdom would be established forever and he would build the Lord a house. Solomon recognised that in his dedicatory prayer to the Lord as the temple was set up. God’s lovingkindness will not be removed to Solomon although He may need to chastise him.[iii]
That brought and still brings reassurance. Though the rulership was taken from Saul, that would not happen to Solomon. This demonstrates the certainty and finality of God’s covenant with David. The Lord would establish the throne of his kingdom forever. Hence the Davidic covenant was not subject to Solomon’s loyalty, but God’s unconditional covenant. Similarly, the salvation of the believer is not dependent on their merit, but trusting in the Lord. This reassures us that we will not be ousted purely for our mistakes. Believers may be chastised or disciplined by the Lord, like Solomon, but that is because of His lovingkindness. He will keep the believer until the end because He is faithful.
The Abrahamic Covenant
The promises of the Davidic Covenant were built on the Abrahamic Covenant and were further supported by prophecy. Back in Genesis 12:1-3, the Lord promised Abram blessings through the descendants, land and in them all the nations would be blessed (through Messiah). In Genesis 15:18, the parameters of the land promised, were given to Abram. Then in Genesis 17:6, Abraham was told that kings would come from him. In Genesis 17:8-9, the land was promised to the Israelites as an everlasting possession and an everlasting covenant.
Prophecies of Messiah
Judah was the great-grandson of Abraham and through his line, the Messiah would come (Genesis 49:10). Micah confirmed the Ruler of Israel would come through Judah, whose goings forth are from everlasting (Micah 5:2). Isaiah spoke of the Messiah to be born who would reign on the throne of David from the stem of Jesse (Isaiah 9:6-7; 11:1). Jeremiah spoke of raising to David a king and a Branch of righteousness (Jeremiah 23:5). The first verse in the Brit Hadasha (New Testament) tells us the Lord Jesus is the Son of David and the Son of Abraham. In Luke’s Gospel, Gabriel announced to Mary the Son of the throne of David whose reign is everlasting (Luke 1:32-33).
God keeps His covenants
We could easily finish there and somehow skip over verse 17, the last verse in this passage. But in one sense it ends where it began. This time it was the Lord’s direction, covenant and promises. David had spoken to Nathan but now Nathan spoke to David. Nathan’s words to David were the Lord’s words. We can rejoice and have confidence in God’s words since He is faithful and keeps His covenants. Since the Lord keeps His covenants with Israel, will He not keep His covenants with the believers in Him? We must trust the Lord over and above our good intentions and that way we can rest in Him. The Lamp of Israel will never go out because of Jesus, the Light of the world.
[i] Jamieson, Fausset & Brown’s Commentary (Zondervan, 1961; Grand Rapids), p233
[ii] A T Pierson, cited in Warren W. Wiersbe The Wiersbe Bible Commentary Old Testament (David C Cook, 2007; Colorado Springs), p565
[iii] The Stone Edition Tanakh The Torah/Prophets/Writings The twenty four books of the Bible newly translated and annotated General Editors Rabbi Nosson Scherman/Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz (Mesorah Publications Ltd, 2000; Brooklyn), p739