His concern for Godís House
2 Samuel 7
How often has "success" been the ruination of those who have experienced it! How often has worldly advancement been followed by the deterioration of spirituality! It is good to see that such was far from being the case with David. In the thirty-fifth chapter of this book we called attention to the blessed manner in which David conducted himself after coining to the throne. So far from indulging in ease and self-luxuriation, it was now that his best achievements were accomplished. First, he captured the stronghold of Zion; next he vanquished the Philistines; then he provided a resting place for the holy ark; and now he evidenced his deep concern to build a temple for the worship of Jehovah. So blessed is each of these incidents, so rich are they in their spiritual and typical import, we proposed to devote a chapter unto the separate consideration of each of them. By the Lordís gracious enabling we have accomplished our purpose concerning the first three, and now we turn to the fourth.
"And it came to pass, when the king sat in his house, and the Lord had given him rest round about from all his enemies" (2 Sam. 7:1). This brings before us a restful interlude in the strenuous and eventful life of our hero. As we have seen in earlier chapters, David had been called upon to gird on the sword again and again; and as we shall see in what follows, considerable fighting yet lay before him. Moreover, little opportunity had been given him in previous years for quietness and repose: during Saulís life and also under the reign of Ishbosheth, David was much harried, and forced to move from place to place; so too in the future, disquieting and distressing experiences lay before him. But here in 2 Samuel 7 a very different picture is set before us: for a brief season the Lord granted His servant rest.
What has been pointed out above finds its counterpart, more or less, in the lives of all Christians. For the most part, their experience both outward and inward closely resembles that of Davidís. Christians are called upon to wage a warfare against the flesh, the world, and the devil, to "Fight the good fight of faith." Those inveterate enemies of the new man give him little rest, and often when he has been enabled by divine grace to achieve a notable victory, he quickly discovers that fresh conflicts await him. Yet, amid his outward troubles and inward strifes, he is occasionally granted a little breathing-spell, and as he sits in his house it can be said of him, "The Lord hath given him rest round about from all his enemies."
As it is in nature, so it is in grace: after the storm comes a peaceful calm. The Lord is merciful and tender in His dealings with His own. Amid many disheartenings, He grants encouragements along the way. "There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Cor. 10:13). After the toil of trying service, He says, "Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile" (Mark 6:31). After a long stretch of the dreary sands of the wilderness, He brings us to some Elim "where are twelve wells of water, and three score and ten palm trees" (Ex. 15:27). After some unusually fierce conflict with Satan, the Lord grants a season of peace, and then, as in Davidís case, we have rest from all our enemies.
And with what was Davidís mind employed during the hour of repose? Not upon worldly trifles or fleshly indulgences, but with the honor of God: "That the king said unto Nathan the prophet, See, now, I dwell in an house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains" (7:2). This is very blessed and furnishes a true insight to the character of him whom the Lord Himself declared to be "a man after His own heart." There are few things which afford a surer index to our spiritualityóOr the lack of itóthan how we are engaged in our hours of leisure. When the conflict is over, and the sword is laid down, we are very apt to relax and become careless about spiritual concerns. And then it is, while off our guard, that Satan so often succeeds in gaining an advantage over us. Far different was it with him whose history we are here pondering.
"The king said unto Nathan the prophet, See, now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains." Observe, first, that in this season of rest Davidís companion was "the prophet." Let that speak loudly to us! A godly companion is an invaluable aid to the preserving of spirituality when we are enjoying a little rest. Hours of recreation would prove hours of re-creation indeed, if they were spent in godly converse with someone who lives near to the Lord. David here supplied proof of his own assertion, "I am a companion of all that fear Thee, and of them that keep Thy precepts" (Ps. 119:63). A person is not only known by the company he or she keeps, but is molded thereby: "He that walketh with wise men, shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed" (Prov. 13:20). Seek as your friends, dear reader, those who are most Christ-like in their character and conversation.
Next, observe what it was which occupied Davidís heart while he sat in his palace in the company of Nathan the prophet: "See, now, I dwell in an house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains." How this, too, reveals the beatings of Davidís heart! One cannot but contrast what we have here with the haughty words of Nebuchadnezzar: "Is not this great Babylon that I have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, for the honour of my majesty?" (Dan. 4:30). Instead of being occupied with his achievements and self-satisfied with the position which he now occupied, David was concerned about the lowly abode of Godís ark. Very beautiful indeed is it to see the recently crowned monarch solicitous, not for the honor of his own majesty, but, for the glory of Him whom he served.
It is not often that those in high places manifest such interest in spiritual things: would that more of the Lordís people who are entrusted with a considerable amount of this worldís goods were more exercised in heart over the prospering of His cause. There are not many who make conscience over spending far more upon themselves than they do for furthering the service of God. In this generation, when the pilgrim character of the saints is well-nigh obliterated, when separation from the world is so largely a thing of the past, when self-indulgence and the gratification of every whim is the order of the day, few find their rest disturbed in the conviction that the worship is languishing. Thousands of professing Christians think more about the welfare of their pet dogs than they do in seeing that the needs of Godís servants and impoverished believers are met, and spend more on the upkeep of their motorcars than they do in the support of missionaries. Little wonder that the Holy Spirit is quenched in so many places.
"And Nathan said to the king, Go, do all that is in thine heart; for the Lord is with thee" (v. 3). A certain class of writers who delight in criticizing almost everyone and everything, and who pretend unto a deeper insight of spiritual things than all who went before them, condemn both David and Nathan on this occasion, which seems to us close akin to the complaint of Judas when Mary lavished her costly ointment upon the Saviour. Nothing is said in the record here that David actually purposed to build Jehovah a temple, but only that he was troubled because one was not yet erected. Whatever conclusion Nathan may have drawn therefrom, he was careful to say nothing to modify Davidís godly concern, but rather sought to encourage his spiritual aspirations. Alas, how many today are ready to snub earnestness, quench zeal, and hinder those who have more love for perishing souls than they have.
Nathan was better taught in divine things than some of those who have traduced him. He was quick to perceive that such unselfishness and godly concern as the king manifested was good evidence that the Lord was with him, for such spiritual exercises of heart proceed not from mere nature. Had David been actuated by a "legalistic" spirit as one of his foolish detractors supposedódeploring it with an "alas, alas!"óGodís faithful servant had promptly rebuked, or at least corrected him. But instead of so doing, he says? "Go, do all that is in thine heart; for the Lord is with thee." O that more of this so-called "legality" were in evidence todayóa heart melted by the Lordís abounding mercies, anxious to express its gratitude by furthering His cause and service. But it is hardly to be expected that those who so strenuously oppose the Lawís being a rule of life for the Christian, should have any clear ideas on either grace or what constitutes "legality."
"And it came to pass that night, that the word of the Lord came unto Nathan" (v. 4). In the brief notes on this verse found in "The Companion Bible" it is there stated that, "After these words (Ďthat nightí) all the MSS. (manuscripts) have a hiatus, marking a solemn pause." The design of the ancient Hebrews may have been to connect this passage with Genesis 15:12-17, which is another night scene. In both a wondrous revelation was made by the Lord: in both His great purpose concerning the Messiah and Mediator received an unfolding: in both a remarkable adumbration was made respecting the contents of the Everlasting Covenant.
"Go and tell my servant David, Thus saith the Lord, Shalt thou build Me an house for Me to dwell in?" (v. 5), or, as it is said in 1 Chronicles 17:4, "Thou shalt not build Me an house to dwell in." Some may suppose that these words make it quite clear that David had definitely determined to erect a temple unto Jehovah. But we rather regard these statements as the gracious construction which God placed upon the holy concern of His servant, just as the Saviour sweetly interpreted the loving devotion of Maryís anointing as "against the day of My burying hath she kept this" (John 12:7); and, as in a coming day He will yet say unto those on His right hand, "I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in" (Matthew 25:35, etc.).
"For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man bath, not according to that he bath not" (2 Cor. 8:12). It is the disposition and desire of the heart which God regards, and sincere intentions to do good are approved by Him, even though His providences do not permit the execution of them. Thus it was in Davidís case. He was concerned that the sacred ark should be under curtains, while he dwelt in a ceiled house. That holy concern was tantamount unto a willingness on his part to honor the Lordís worship by a stately temple, and this is the construction which God graciously placed upon it, accepting the will for the deed. Though David had not formally planned to build the temple, God so interpreted the exercises of his mind; just as when a man looks lustfully upon a woman, Christ interprets this as "adultery" itself (Matthew 5:28).
We have dwelt the longer upon this point because the commentators have quite missed the force of it. Not only so, but some teachers, who are looked upon in certain circles as well nigh infallible in their expositions, have falsely charged David with "legality." Now that the Lord had elevated him from the sheepcote to the throne, and had given him rest from all his enemies, Davidís concern for the dwelling place of the ark is twisted into his desire to do something for the Lord as payment of all He had done for him. Such men err "not knowing the scriptures." One verse of the Word is sufficient to refute their childish misconceptions, and establish what we have said above: "And the Lord said unto David my father, Whereas it was in thine heart to build an house unto My name, thou didst well [not "thou was moved by a legalistic spirit"] that it was in thine heart" (1 Kings 8:18).
We do not propose to comment in detail upon the remainder of the Lordís message through Nathan, but rather will we generalize our remarks upon the same. First, the Lord made touching mention of His own infinite condescension in graciously accommodating Himself unto the stranger and pilgrim character of His people (v. 6). The great Jehovah had deigned to "walk with the children of Israel." What an amazing and heart-melting word is that in Leviticus 25:23 "The land shall not be sold forever: for the land is Mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with Me." David himself had laid hold of that word, as his statement in Psalm 39: 12 clearly shows, "Hold not Thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with Thee, and a sojourner as all my fathers were." Until Israel were settled in their inheritance an humble tent had sewed the Lordís requirements. In this He has left us an example to follow: pomp and parade, extravagance and luxury, ill become those who have here "no continuing city."
Second, as yet the Lord had given no definite instruction for the erection of an imposing edifice for His worship (v. 7), and until He did, a tent of His appointing, was better than a temple of manís devising. Our desires, even of usefulness, must be governed by His precepts. Whatever be our spiritual aspirations, they must be regulated by the revealed will of God. He assigns unto every one his own work, and each of us should thankfully and faithfully attend to our own proper business. O to be satisfied with the place which God has allotted us, to discharge earnestly the duty which He has appointed us, and leave to other whom He has chosen, the more honorable work. The temple was to bear the name of Solomon, and not that of David.
Third, David was reminded of the wondrous things which God had already wrought for him, so that while he was not called unto the building of the temple, nevertheless, he was one of the favorites of Heaven (v. 8). Moreover, God had made him signally victorious over all his foes, and had advanced him unto high honor among the nations (v. 9). Let us be thankful for the mercies which God has bestowed, and not repine for any which He sees fit to withhold. Fourth, the happy future of his people was assured him (v. 10), from which he might well conclude that, when they were more securely established, then would be the time for the erection of a permanent house of worship. Finally, God announces rich blessings as being entailed upon Davidís family, for from his seed should issue, according to the flesh, the promised Messiah and Mediator (vv. 11-16). Thus, instead of Davidís building for the Lord a material and temporal house, the Lord would build for him a spiritual house which would abide "for ever." Thus we see that a "willing mind" (2 Cor. 8: 12) is not only accepted, but richly rewarded. "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the Church, by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (Eph. 3:20, 21).