Summary: The “Extreme Makeover: Temple Edition,” as David learned is not about sprucing up the building, it’s about building up the kingdom, God’s kingdom; we must be about the task of justice-bearing, of love-spreading, and of kingdom-building!
Just one week into my seminary career, I found myself in the refectory (that’s the dining hall) one night with a group of five or six other first-year students. Though I hardly knew them at the time, these people became and remain some of my best friends. Since I really didn’t know them all that well at the time, it’s interesting that I remember this particular night, but the memory is still vivid, just as if it happened yesterday. I believe I remember it because the conversation around the dinner table that night became the first great theological debate of my seminary career. The topic of debate: “Does God need humans?” Sitting at the table, we had people on both sides of the debate. Those who said, “No, God does not need humans,” were arguing God’s sovereignty and God’s ability to function and achieve God’s purposes in God’s creation without humans. This is certainly a valid argument, it seems to me if we suggest otherwise, we would be limiting God’s power and majesty. On the other side of the argument were those who said, “Yes, God does need humans.” Those arguing on this side, drew heavily from the creation story and suggested that God deeply desires to be in relationship with humanity and God has created humans to have dominion over this creation, and thus humanity is needed by God to fulfill that role. They further argued that God needs humans to help spread the Gospel message to other people in the world; again, very valid points.
Needless to say, this debate went on for quite some time. We even conscripted the opinion of some more “learned” seminary students, who were in their second year, and sitting at a table nearby. After listening to and participating in the debate for some time, I finally figured out that we really weren’t disagreeing on the matter all that much. So I started to think about what it was we were saying in answer to the question, “Does God need humans?” I decided that we were all in agreement that God does not need humans in order to be and remain God; however, God does need humans for companionship and to further God’s purposes on earth. So I jumped back into the debate with this conclusion, “God does not need humans like humans need water, we are not necessary to God’s survival. But God needs humans kind of like women need chocolate.” You know, sometimes, women just crave chocolate and they’re a lot happier when they have it; just like God is a lot happier to have us around, to be in relationship with us, and to have us serving God in God’s creation. This seemed to be an agreeable conclusion to all involved in the debate, and having finished up our dinners, we all went on our way, but I will admit to you that this is a question I continue to ponder from time-to-time, and it is one which is broached to an extent in our Scripture reading for today.
Having now moved the ark of God in Jerusalem, and feeling quite settled in his new home and reign, David decides that God needs such a home as well, a more permanent dwelling than the tent of meeting which had moved around with the Israelites since their exodus from Egypt. David calls in the prophet Nathan, and without even revealing his plan, David says only to Nathan, “I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” Nathan jumps in and tells David to proceed with all he has in mind, that he has the Lord’s blessings. David is thinking he will build a cedar dwelling for the ark of God that is as lavish as his own home. And cedar at this time was an extremely expensive commodity, accessible only to the rich. But God has something else in mind, and he lets Nathan know of it that very night. Essentially, God sends through Nathan a message that God has never had a house of cedar, never asked for one, and really does not need one. But the message does not stop there. God completely turns the tables and declares that he will establish from the offspring of David a great house, a kingdom that will last forever! What an amazing message from God in response to David’s desire to build for the Lord a temple!