This morning’s BCP daily office reading included II Samuel 7:1-17, the passage in which King David first realizes that he wants to build a Temple for the Ark of the Covenant to dwell in. Now generally, when people talk about the reason God said no to David’s offer to build Him a Temple, it’s because David was a man of war, with blood on his hands. That is true, but that isn’t the first thing God said. In fact, the initial episode where David first comes up with the idea provides a completely different reason:
I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you… And I will make for you a great name… And I will appoint a place for my people Israel… And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house…
God’s promises to David and his offspring continue, but this is the height of them. David wants to build God a house, but God counters by saying that He’ll be building David’s house instead! Yes, God accepts the idea and lets on that David’s son will build the Temple instead, but it’s not for David to do. The focus isn’t on the idea that because David is a military leader he’s unworthy to fund a civil-religious project in Jerusalem. Rather, God is affirming David’s desire to glorify Him and pointing out the correct way for him to do that. David is to glorify God by being a great leader and king, and the father of a royal line that will “be enthroned forever” or as the prophets later revealed, the Messianic line.
So David was to focus on glorifying God in his kingship, dedicating his battles and decisions and kingdom to the Lord. Building a Temple for God is a good idea, but it’ll be for someone else to do. God doesn’t want anyone to be distracted from the fact that He built David’s house, so it would be inconvenient if David also built God’s house (Temple)… it’d look too much like a deal was brokered among equals. God is in charge, there can be no mistake. So instead, Solomon built the Temple. That was a way God called him to glorify Him.
I think this can be encouraging as well as challenging for us. It’s encouraging to see that God calls people to glorify Him in different ways. We can see and recognize many good callings in life without feeling like we have to do everything. We have the freedom to say “it is good to glorify God by doing ___, but I’ve been called to glorify Him this other way.” The challenge arises quickly, however, due to the fact that we don’t always correctly know how we’re called to glorify God. King David had a good idea, but he got it wrong. Even the prophet Nathan thought it was a good idea too until God stepped in and told him otherwise. So we definitely must be cautious about using this as an excuse for laziness or ducking out of ‘inconvenient’ callings.
If we have ideas about our roles in the Church, or feel a calling from God to pursue something, we need to seek counsel from godly elders, and spend time listening to God more carefully to discern between our personal ambitions and His own will & purposes. God isn’t a hand puppet parroting everything we say and think; His opinions are His own, and we’ve got to pay close attention!