Summary: The text concerns David’s desire to build a temple "house" for God, and God’s response that God will build David’s house. We often try to control God, but God is in control, not us.
Who’s in control?
David has come a long way from being a shepherd boy in Bethlehem and the youngest of 8 sons to being the king of Israel, who reunited the northern and southern Kingdoms, established the capital at Jerusalem, and moved the ark of the covenant into the city. He most likely had a great palace, and was one of, if not the greatest king in the history of Israel. And the scripture tells us that the Lord gave David rest from all his enemies. So he was at ease. One day he looked out of his palace onto the tent that housed the Ark of the Covenant, and he thought, “I need to build a temple for the Lord.” he got really excited about his plan, and probably thought he would be doing a great thing. Of course, he needs the “preacher’s” permission. So he called in the prophet Nathan and asked him what he thought of the temple idea. And Nathan immediately said, “I think it’s great”. He may have had the attitude, “anything you say David”… I mean who would argue with the king? We don’t know. At any rate, we soon learn that god has other plans. Have you ever had an idea and gotten real excited about something, and passed that excitement along, only to find out later that though it sounds great to you, it’s not quite what God has in mind? That’s what happened here. That night, when Nathan went to sleep, God spoke to Nathan, “Today you acted more like a politician than a prophet. You went along with the kings plan, but you did not take the time to ask me what I thought.” How often in our lives, and maybe even in our ministries, do we think we have it all worked out, or develop a sure fire plan for our lives or for our day or have a great solution to a problem at hand, and then realize we have not even consulted God about it, or asked and listened for what God wanted us to do? Someone once said that many Christians are functional atheists: that is, in spite of believing and worshipping God, they live their every day lives as if God doesn’t exist. There may be some truth to that in some ways. David learned a lesson about that. See once he got his attention, and in essence, let Nathan know that he has handled the situation as if God didn’t exist, God gave Nathan a different answer to give to David than what David or Nathan had in mind. So the next morning Nathan told David what God really thought about his idea. I imagine David was a tad surprised by the reply. After all, it was worthy cause, a great idea.
God said, “I’ve never lived in a house. I can’t be contained by any house you build. I am everywhere, and can be anywhere I want when I want to.” See, the ark was in a tent, the symbol of nomadic life. Nomads are always on the move, no one controls them, they go where they want when they want. So the question is: why did David want to build a temple? Was it out of love and dedication to God or was it that David felt that building a temple in Jerusalem and putting the ark of the covenant in the temple would mean, or make the statement that God is always in Jerusalem?
See, that is our great temptation. We want to control God. We try to squeeze god into our way of thinking, into our mold, if you will. It is as if some Christians put God in a little box…the box of what they know, how they would react, what they would expect, how they want things to go, or how they would expect something to be handled. Still others treat God as something they can pull out when they need Him and neatly tuck back away when they don’t. Sometimes we claim to have all the truth, that we can always predict and explain what God does and why. For centuries Christians have fought among themselves claiming that they have the whole truth. These people believe that others who think differently are wrong. John Wesley said that no one has all the truth. That is a big part of our heritage. (open heart, minds, doors). See, God is bigger than us all and than anything we can imagine. How do finite creatures wrap our minds around the infinite? We can’t1 With God there must always be some mystery, or we have fallen into the trap of trying to control God. Sometimes we, like David, are not even conscious of the fact that we are trying to control God. But you see, God is not like that. God cannot be dictated to by humanity or controlled by humanity. We need to remember that we are created in God’s imagine when we are tempted to try to make God into our image.