Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Now it came to pass, as David sat in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, Lo, I dwell in an house of cedars, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD remaineth under curtains.Cedar and Curtains
1 Chronicles 17:1-4; 1 Chronicles 17:10
'Now it came to pass, as David sat in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, "Lo, I dwell in an house of cedars, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord remaineth under curtains".'
David is troubled by the disparity between his own surroundings and those of the Ark.
I. We have here a somewhat unusual spectacle; this discontent arises with the king and not with the prophet; the political ruler, and not the spiritual adviser. The man who has the luxury does not wait for the man of the simple life to come and upbraid him and stir him up. He is upbraided by his own conscience. His palace is a burden and not a joy to him, and he cannot rest until he has brought the spiritual at least into line with the material.
II. The next thing that I would say about David's solicitude is that it was perfectly reasonable. Israel really owed everything to God because David owed everything to Him.
We are in peculiar danger of losing in these materialistic days our sense of indebtedness to God, the consciousness which seemed to be always present with the saints of a former time—that we owe everything to Him; and there are few things more lowering and injurious to the spirit that makes for noble manhood than our yielding to the tendency to forget God and to forget that life itself and all that makes it worth having, all that enriches it, all love, Divine and human, is His gift.
III. And the last thing I have to say about David's solicitude is that it was really politic. David was keen enough to see that if all were right with the Ark, all would be right with the nation; that it was really a stronger defence of Jerusalem than the rock upon which it stood or the walls that surrounded it. There is no need to be unreasonable; the man who looks after the Ark, if we take David as an illustration, will look after the fortifications also; but he will know that fortifications are as crumbling sand, and are nothing without character. And we know that a nation's material good and its booming trade are no reliable foundations for that nation's permanence or greatness.
—C. Brown, God and Man, p. 247.
God in Human Life
1 Chronicles 17:7
I. 'I have been with thee whithersoever thou hast walked.' We make a good deal of 'whosoever' wherever it occurs in the sacred record—'Whosoever believeth in Me shall be saved'. We say, 'whosoever—whosoever'; we take in the man at the uttermost extremity, and we flood his ear with the music of 'whosoever'. Let us make a good deal of this 'whithersoever'. But I have sometimes gone on the wrong road. 'I know it, but I was always there to bring thee back.' Many a time I have gone to the wrong place. 'Yes, and I was there before thee with a disappointment'. My life has been one grand mistake. 'No, it would have been if I had not walked with thee; take My estimate of things, and not thine own: I have cut off all thine enemies from before thee.' He will not be shut out of our life. I wondered why the enemies gave in so soon. 'I could tell thee, I weakened their arms, I broke their chief muscles; I did not make Myself heard or seen amid all the contest, but I was there. If a man's ways please the Lord, He maketh his enemies to be at peace with him; no weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.' 'I have made thee a name like the name of the great men that are in the earth.' 'I wondered how my name was made great,' said David. 'It seemed to rise above all the other names, it was a name to conjure by; kings mentioned my name with fear, and as for those that dwelt afar off beyond the sea, my name was to them a terror, an appalling and thrilling amazement. Many a time in my little hut amongst the sheepfolds I have wondered how it was that my name came roaring along the winds; now here is the explanation—"I have made thee a name".' Was ever man comforted like this? He adds another word, for now that He is on these terms with David and is going to disappoint him, He will prepare him for the disappointment in a splendid preface: 'The Lord will build thee an house'. Man likes a house, and likes a sure place to dwell in; it may not be great, but it is his; he says, 'This is my door, we will enter in here, and here we shall find rest and immortality'. What more could He do for him? He is going to disappoint him; all this is leading up to a rebuke. Always suspect some danger, man, when you possess delight; it is one of the doggerels on which you were reared. He says, 'I took thee from the sheep-cote, I have been with thee whithersoever thou hast walked, I have cut off all thine enemies, I have made thee a name like the name of the great men that are in the earth: I will build thee an house. Thine hands are bloody, and thou shalt not gather these stones that are shaped into My temple. But you have had your lot, you have seen your destiny, you know the multitude of the comforts that have surrounded you day and night all these years. Nathan was wrong, Nathan spoke to thee too hurriedly, I have sent Nathan back to thee to recall his words, and to say the Lord is not served by building. Thy son shall build Me an house, but the house building shall be none of thy doing; thou didst work according to thy day, I am not rebuking thee, thou didst work by thine own opportunity, and according to thine own lights, and thou art the father of the temple-builder, but not the temple-builder himself.' That is the text.
II. What is the explanation of it all so far as we are concerned? It is to show us God's place in human life. What is written here is written everywhere. It is the same with you and with me as it was with David; there are things we may do and things we may not do. God will always have to work with imperfect tools; even Solomon will not be the perfect man at the end that he was apparently going to be at the beginning. We all have to work according to our tools and opportunities, and the best of us is a bad workman. I wonder we dare do anything in the house of God; to light a lamp is too great a work for me, to have anything to do with the treasure of the house of the Lord is to me in many a mood a blasphemy, yet there are those of us who think we honour the house of God by attending to it. It is not so; it is we who receive the honour, not the house that is honoured.
III. And here is God accompanying men. If ever we said we would go out alone, He said, 'I will see to it, he shall not go out alone, for this is a land of wild beasts, and he may cross the path of the lion, and come near the retreat of the bear; I will go with him, I will prevent him—that is to say, I will go between him and danger; I will go before him, and he shall put his footprint where I set My foot.' God is closer than we think; God is nearer than we have sometimes dreamed or imagined.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. VI. p. 175.
References.—XVII. 26, 27.—H. M. Butler, Harrow School Sermons (2nd Series), p. 299. XVIII. 4.—G. T. Coster, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii. p. 261.
Then Nathan said unto David, Do all that is in thine heart; for God is with thee.
And it came to pass the same night, that the word of God came to Nathan, saying,
Go and tell David my servant, Thus saith the LORD, Thou shalt not build me an house to dwell in:
For I have not dwelt in an house since the day that I brought up Israel unto this day; but have gone from tent to tent, and from one tabernacle to another.
Wheresoever I have walked with all Israel, spake I a word to any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to feed my people, saying, Why have ye not built me an house of cedars?
Now therefore thus shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, even from following the sheep, that thou shouldest be ruler over my people Israel:
And I have been with thee whithersoever thou hast walked, and have cut off all thine enemies from before thee, and have made thee a name like the name of the great men that are in the earth.
Also I will ordain a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, and they shall dwell in their place, and shall be moved no more; neither shall the children of wickedness waste them any more, as at the beginning,
And since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel. Moreover I will subdue all thine enemies. Furthermore I tell thee that the LORD will build thee an house.
And it shall come to pass, when thy days be expired that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom.
He shall build me an house, and I will stablish his throne for ever.
I will be his father, and he shall be my son: and I will not take my mercy away from him, as I took it from him that was before thee:
But I will settle him in mine house and in my kingdom for ever: and his throne shall be established for evermore.
According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David.
And David the king came and sat before the LORD, and said, Who am I, O LORD God, and what is mine house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?
And yet this was a small thing in thine eyes, O God; for thou hast also spoken of thy servant's house for a great while to come, and hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree, O LORD God.
What can David speak more to thee for the honour of thy servant? for thou knowest thy servant.
O LORD, for thy servant's sake, and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all this greatness, in making known all these great things.
O LORD, there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.
And what one nation in the earth is like thy people Israel, whom God went to redeem to be his own people, to make thee a name of greatness and terribleness, by driving out nations from before thy people, whom thou hast redeemed out of Egypt?
For thy people Israel didst thou make thine own people for ever; and thou, LORD, becamest their God.
Therefore now, LORD, let the thing that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant and concerning his house be established for ever, and do as thou hast said.
Let it even be established, that thy name may be magnified for ever, saying, The LORD of hosts is the God of Israel, even a God to Israel: and let the house of David thy servant be established before thee.
For thou, O my God, hast told thy servant that thou wilt build him an house: therefore thy servant hath found in his heart to pray before thee.
And now, LORD, thou art God, and hast promised this goodness unto thy servant:
Now therefore let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may be before thee for ever: for thou blessest, O LORD, and it shall be blessed for ever.