2 Samuel 5 – 7
After decisively defeating the Philistines in the valley of Rephaim, King David brought the Ark of the Covenant from the house of Abinadab at Baale-judah to Jerusalem. En route, Uzzah, the latter’s son, reached out to stabilize the Ark, as the oxen on which it was laid stumbled. God immediately struck down Uzzah for irreverence, since only consecrated Aaronic priests were allowed to touch the Tabernacle’s holy objects (6:7). Overwhelmed with fear, David left the Ark at the home of Obed-edom, the Gittite. Three months later, when news of how God had blessed Obed-edom reached him, the King had the Ark delivered to the city of David accompanied by an elaborate ceremonial display (6:10 – 6:19). Soon after, David consulted with Nathan to build a Temple for Yahweh (7:1-3). This episode in parsing out the King’s motivations for temple building was revealing, and only God was able to confront him. We are reminded that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds” (Jer 17: 9-10). This is an invaluable lesson as we tend to be oblivious of our own motivations under most critical circumstances, since its roots lie deep within our subconscious, and often subverted by our own unadulterated mindlessness or egotism.
It was the common practice in the Near East for a newly installed monarch to build ceremonial temples to honour and house their patron god or goddess. These national deities would then guarantee the ruler’s political legitimacy as he represented them to their subjects. From the conversation between Yahweh and David, it would seem that the King’s thoughts were not unlike those of his regional counterparts. Having heard how God had prospered Obed-edom, his desire for worldly-wise regal recognition from his courtiers, subjects, and enemies proved too irresistible. By doing the ritually correct thing, David thought he could manipulate Yahweh for his own benefit! Although Nathan gave the initial go-ahead, that very evening, Yahweh contradicted his permission (7:2-4). This was a counter-culture wakeup call to Nathan and David. God obviously had other plans for the King and Israel that were not in line with the era’s religious culture.
The dialogue between David and God (the latter spoke through Nathan) was an eye-opener, as the issues at hand were still the matter of trust and faith. Notice the wordplay with ‘house’ and ‘name’ between them (7:5-29): David’s deepest fears focused around his sovereign reputation and dynastic succession that the Temple presence of God at Jerusalem would have secured for him, whereas Yahweh was centred on being the prime mover in His relationship with David, His steward on earth. From God’s perspective, He was plainly stating that the mutual manipulative Near Eastern politics between kings and gods could never work with Him; although He would still do for David whatever he feared most without a Temple, but always on His terms; to the extent that “your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever,” and much more “your throne shall be established forever” (7:16).
Having heard how God would addressed his insecurities and doubts, David finally comprehended that Yahweh is not like any of the other national gods, and the relationship with Him was on the basis of an expressed personal faith in and dependence on Him: “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that You have brought me this far?… For You have established for Yourself Your people Israel as Your own people forever, and You O Lord, have become their God (7:18.24). It is certainly a discipline to be still and selflessly listening in God’s presence, to have our self-centred motivations teased out and to align them with God’s. ““For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”“ (Isa 55:8-9).