Wednesday 21st July 2021
2 Samuel 7:1-17
Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.’
But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’
Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over 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. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever. In accordance with all these words and with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.
The ark of God is safe in Jerusalem. David consults a prophet about its housing – a tent seems inadequate for God, especially as the king resides in a cedar palace. Initially Nathan affirms David’s plans as godly; but then receives God’s word for David which changes the situation.
This passage expresses what is known as the Davidic covenant, although that word isn’t actually used. It contains two oracles (vv.5-7, 8-16) which the narrator has skilfully brought together by playing on different meanings of the word ‘house’ – as a physical building (temple) to contain God (symbolised by the ark); and as the dynastic succession of kings.
God has never asked for a house in which to live, says the prophet; nor does God need humanity to provide a place of sanctuary for God. In contrast God has been on the move with Israel since rescuing them from Egypt; the implication being that wherever God’s people travel, God goes with them. Sadly Israel lost sight of this truth until their exile experience prompted a radical rethink of theology.
The second oracle reflects Judean ideology and probably emerged from a later period. It focuses on David as God’s chosen ‘shepherd’ exercising divine rule over a secure kingdom because God will continue to deal with their enemies. It is explicit about the matter of succession when David dies; God will raise up one of his sons as the next king who will build the house for God’s ‘name’. God promises that the covenant relationship with David’s line will never be removed, as it was from Saul, even when the kings inevitably sin.
An understanding of Israel’s subsequent defeat by Assyria and Judah’s invasion by Babylon as expressions of divine punishment resulted from this ideology; but God’s involvement in human history cannot be understood in such a narrow way.
Holy God, forgive us if we imagine that you need us to protect you, or to defend your name or reputation. Remind us of our dependence on you for everything; and grant us a deeper understanding of your activity in the midst of major events that impact on our lives.
May we trust in your loving presence wherever life takes us and whatever befalls us today. Amen.