In the city of Agra in India lies Taj Mahal, one of the most famous buildings in the architectural world. Taj Mahal means “Crown Palace” and is in fact the most well preserved and architecturally beautiful tomb in the world. It was described by English poet, Sir Edwin Arnold, as “Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passions of an emperor’s love wrought in living stones.”
It was built by the Moghal emperor Shah Jahan in 1631 in memory of his second wife who died while giving birth to their 14th child. He built it as a tribute to his love for her.
The Taj Mahal is one of many amazing palaces built by kings and emperors throughout the ages. It seems that when kings have fought their battles and established their kingdoms, one of their first impulses is to build a palace. The same was true of King David of Israel.
Last week, we saw that David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem to establish it as his new capital city. The Ark’s presence meant that Jerusalem would be the new religious and political capital of David’s kingdom.
Today’s passage uses the word “house” seven times, and understanding the passage depends on the word play involving the different meanings of “house.” In the first place, it means “palace,” when the passage speaks of the home that David built for himself. In the second place, it means “temple” when speaking of the “house” that David wants to build for God. And in the third place, it means “dynasty,” when God speaks of the “house” that God will build for David. So, pay close attention as we move through this passage.
David had defeated his enemies and began to move Israel from its tribal nature toward becoming a bona fide state. So now he turned his attention to building his own “house of cedar.” We have no record of the beauty of his palace, but we can assume it was a magnificent structure worthy of the greatest king of Israel.
But after David had completed his own palace, he says to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within curtains.”
I find it very interesting that David was the kind of man who compared his own house of luxury with the paltry status of the Tabernacle of God. You see, God’s presence among the people of Israel had been represented by the tent called “The Tabernacle.” And in it was the Ark of the Covenant, representing the presence of God.
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David’s response proves once again the true nature of David’s faith, and shows us that one of the first impulses of a person of faith is stewardship. All through the Bible we find people who have been blessed by God, and almost always their first response is to make an offering, build an altar, or give a tithe to God.
David did what many of us should do. He compared his house to God’s house, and discovered that God’s house paled in comparison. So he shares with his prophet Nathan this desire to build a temple for God.
This is the first mention of the prophet Nathan in the Bible, but we will see in the coming weeks that Nathan becomes a very important man of God during David’s reign. But in verse three, we see that Nathan initially approved this action. He says, “Go, do all that is in your heart; for Yahweh is with you.” But Nathan had spoken too quickly.
That same night God spoke to Nathan to correct him. God said, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says Yahweh, “Shall you build me a house for me to dwell in? For I have not lived in a house since the day that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, even to this day, but have moved around in a tent and in a tabernacle. In all places in which I have walked with all the children of Israel, did I say a word to any of the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to be shepherd of my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?'”‘
God rejects the idea of a house for God because God cannot be bound to a single place. God’s presence cannot be confined or captured. In lofty theological terms it is call the omnipresence of God. God is everywhere.
There is a story about a church that once was vandalized. Early on a Sunday morning, the members of the congregation entered into the sanctuary, only to see their pastor standing in the middle of a complete mess. Criminals had broken in the night before. They shattered the stained glass windows, and overturned the pews. Up in front of the sanctuary, above the altar, they spray-painted three words in bright red: “God is nowhere!”
The members of the congregation were shocked and shaken. But the pastor urged them to stay and worship as they had planned. He told them to look at those three words above the altar again: “God is nowhere!” For some, it might have seemed that was exactly the case that morning. “Where was God when the criminals were desecrating this house of worship? God is nowhere.”
But then, the pastor told the members to look at that sentence above the altar in a different way. He told them to divide the last word of that sentence between the w and the h. “You see,” he said, “when you divide that word “nowhere” between the w and the h, you get two different words. The sentence changes and we are reminded of God’s promise to us.” When the members looked at that spray-painted sentence again with that one change, it no longer said, “God is nowhere.” It said, “God is now here.” In their anxiety, the members started to recall and share Jesus’ promises:
• “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age;”
• “I will in no way leave you, neither will I in any way forsake you;”
• “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst.”
Far from being nowhere, God is everywhere, God is always now here. God doesn’t need a house. We may need one for our worship, but God doesn’t need a house.
But as this passage unfolds, God accepts the idea that humans will need to build a temple, but God points out that David is not the one to do that. In verse 5, he asks, “Shall you build me a house for me to dwell in?” Then in verse 12, he says, “I will set up your seed after you, who shall proceed out of your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name.”
As we all know, Solomon will be the one to build the Temple. In 1 Chronicles 22:7-10, David explains why, “David said to Solomon his son, “As for me, it was in my heart to build a house to the name of Yahweh my God. But the word of Yahweh came to me, saying, ‘You have shed blood abundantly, and have made great wars. You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. Behold, a son shall be born to you, who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his enemies all around; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness to Israel in his days. He shall build a house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.'”
Then God tells David that instead of David building God a house, God will make David a house. Verse 11 and 13 say, “Moreover Yahweh tells you that Yahweh will make you a house (a dynasty)… and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”
Notice that there had never been a dynasty, a succession of rulers who were members of the same family. This was a new idea for Israel, but now God promises a succession of rulers forever. Someone from David’s family would rule over Israel in perpetuity.
On Wednesday nights, we have been studying an Introduction to the Old Testament and spent several weeks on the nature of covenant in the early pages of the Bible. All of those covenants were conditional. They contained an “if” clause. “If you will obey my commandments, then I will bless you.” But this covenant with David was unconditional. It included a “nevertheless” clause. “You and your descendants may make mistakes for which you may be chastised; nevertheless your kingdom will last forever.”
The problem, of course, is that the dynasty of David did not last. The Davidic dynasty endured only a few hundred years, until Zedekiah and Jehoichin died in Babylonian captivity, after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
Most scholars believe this text was written during the Babylonian exile when there was no descendant of David on the throne, which strikes me as odd. If it was truly written during that time, then they, of all people, knew that David’s dynasty had ended.
Somehow they were not disturbed by this. The reinterpreted it as a promise from God that still remained. For them, it represented hope.
When the prospects of the present kingdom seemed bleak, the prophets turned to this statement of promise through David for the hope that God is always bringing a new David in every circumstance. God had promised an anointed one, a messiah, who would bear God’s Spirit and establish God’s intended kingdom.
In Isaiah 11:1-2, we read, “A shoot will come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of Yahweh will rest on him: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Yahweh.”
For me, this is a significant point because it reminds us that the people of Israel sometimes do right things, and they sometimes do wrong things. Sometimes God blessed the people of Israel in the Old Testament; sometimes he punished them.
Today we are acquainted with the news stories involving Israel, especially the war between Israel and Lebanon. We cannot assume from the Bible that Israel is always right. That is one central lesson that we should learn today.
For Christians, this passage is directly tied to the fact that Jesus was of the house and lineage of David. Luke 1:31-33 says, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb, and give birth to a son, and will call his name ‘Jesus.’ He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever. There will be no end to his Kingdom.”
Christians understand Jesus as the direct fulfillment of God’s promise in 1 Samuel. Christians that we believe the “house” of David is carried on in the person of Jesus Christ, because that means the true descendants of David’s kingdom are the followers of Jesus Christ.
We should also notice a radical statement from the Apostle Paul. In Galatians 3:16, Paul is talking about who the real Israelites are. He says, “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He doesn’t say, ‘To seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘To your seed,’ which is Christ.” Paul was arguing that Jesus is the offspring of Abraham, and, as we have seen from Luke, David. Then he adds in Galatians 3:29, “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to promise.”
In my mind, that is crystal clear. The real Israel today are the followers of Jesus Christ. God does not always bless the nation that is Israel. When they are wrong, they are not blessed. And they have never been more wrong about anything than about the person of Jesus Christ. The Jews reject Jesus Christ.
The unconditional promise of the dynasty of David is fulfilled in the Church of Jesus Christ! Christians are the heirs of Abraham, the true Israel serving as the kingdom of God under the reign of the one descendant of David, Jesus Christ.
Now let us return to the “house” theme. We have seen that the passage begins with discussion of David’s house (a palace), goes on to speak of God’s house (a Temple), and finally deals with David’s future house (a dynasty). But I want to show you that the Bible picks up that theme elsewhere and speaks of a house for us.
1 Peter 2:4-5 speaks of a Christians becoming a house, “coming to him, a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God, precious. You also, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
The church is a house that exists independently from any building, a house of faith which is part of a larger, universal house of faith.
And in John 14, Jesus speaks of a house prepared in heaven for each of us. He says, “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many homes” (The King James version says, “mansions. I think “homes” or “houses” would be a fair translation). “If it weren’t so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place (house)for you. If I go and prepare a place (house) for you, I will come again, and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also.”
The Contemporary Christian rock group Audio Adrenaline became famous with their hit song, “Big House.” Here are some of the words:
(NOTE: For copyright reasons, I don’t feel at liberty to post the lyrics to the entire song, but you can find them at: