Now it came to pass, when David was dwelling in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord is under tent curtains.” Then Nathan said to David, “Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.” But it happened that night that the word of God came to Nathan, saying, “Go and tell My servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: “You shall not build Me a house to dwell in.” (1 Chronicles 17:1-4)
Man’s Thoughts And God’s Will
Israel was beginning a golden era of prosperity and peace that would apex under the leadership of David’s son, Solomon. The ark of God had been at Kirjath Jearim when David command the people to assemble to bring the ark to Jerusalem. There was a three month delay of bringing the ark to the city of David as the Lord struck down Uzzah for unlawfully touching the it. Finally, David prepared a place for the ark of God and great preparation went into worship of setting the ark with the tabernacle David had erected. All of Israel joined in magnificent praise accompanied by instruments of music, stringed instruments, harps, and cymbals and raising the voice with resounding joy. The psalmist of Israel penned a psalm for the occasion and all the people said, “Amen,” and praised the Lord. After the order of worship was established everyone returned to the homes including David.
As David sat in his house, he called Nathan the prophet to come. The king had been thinking about all that had transpired and the glorious celebration of bringing the ark to the tabernacle set up in Jerusalem. In the mind of David there was something lacking in all of this he needed to fix. The ark was resting under tent curtains. Why should the ark of God – the ancient box constructed at Mt. Sinai and carried by the people of God since the beginning of the nation – be housed in a temporary dwelling place? David determined to build a house for the Lord and to put the ark in a proper place. He lived in a house of cedar. The ark should be placed in a house of honor and the king was determined to do whatever he needed to do in building a house for the Lord. Calling Nathan the prophet, he unveiled his plan. The prophet agreed and told David to do all that was in his heart. Finally the ark of the Lord would be given a proper place to dwell with the blessings of the king and his prophet. There was an important detail that David and Nathan had forgotten to look into. What did God say about this?
The same night of the great plan the great Planner came to Nathan and told him that David would not build a house for the ark. It was clear the Lord was moved by the thought of His shepherd to build Him a house but the will of the Father was for the Temple to be built later under the rule of Solomon. Further, the Lord embedded a prophecy about His own Son that would come true many generations later in the city of Jerusalem when the first gospel sermon was preached. But David would not build a house for the ark. When Nathan revealed the words to David the king’s humility shines forth as he accepts the will of the Father. David’s response to the Lord is a beautiful statement of faith worth reading.
David must have been very excited about building a house for the Lord. Even Nathan the prophet thought it would be a great idea and probably the two of them spent a long time talking about the many facets of construction. As the day ended spirits were high and their hearts were filled with the praise of God for the wonderful things that were to come. The night changed all of that when the Lord revealed another plan. The lesson is clear the thoughts of men and the will of God are at odds with one another. So often men think of things that would be pleasing to the Lord but are contrary to God’s will. Was there anything morally wrong about building a house for the ark? The answer is found in the will of God and how the Temple would be built by someone else. Just because the king and his prophet thought it was a good idea did not mean the Lord approved.
There are many things done in the name of God today that are wholesome and good but without the authority of the Lord. This is so hard to understand as the plea is much like David of the glory that will be given God. But – this is not His will! Authority is the necessary foundation for all that we teach, we practice and follow. Someone will come along and suggest ‘building a house for the ark of the Lord’ and we must examine the will of the Father to see if there is authority. Personal zeal does not replace what the word of God says. People of the book inquire of the Lord first. Stand upon His law and His law alone.
If your will is with God you work with God; God is then the life of your soul, and you will have your life with God to all eternity. (William Law; 1686-1761, The Way to Divine Knowledge)