“Now it came about when the king lived in his house, and the LORD had given him rest on every side from all his enemies, that the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within tent curtains.”” (2 Samuel 7:1-2)
2 Samuel 7:1-17 records an account of King David wanting to build a temple for God, and yet God told him no. I have often wondered why until recently I read David Peterson’s book “Engaging With God.” There are valuable lessons about worship in there that relates to what churches are going through today. It’s also a continuation of my last blog entry on worship.
Up to that point in history, Israel’s worship had centered on the tent of meeting where the ark of the covenant resided. When David wanted to build a temple for God, normally you’d think he’s doing a good thing. He’s thinking: “I’m living in such a nice house and God is in a tent… I should make a house for God too.” What’s wrong with that?
Sometimes our “worship” seems like doing favors for God. A simple “let’s build a house for God” can gradually turn into “let’s add the XYZ super-mega-sound system to the church because God deserves it” or “let’s add the PQR super-mega-file-server system to the church so we can worship God better”, etc.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m both a sound engineer and a computer engineer, and no doubt having the best equipment in church will improve our worship gatherings a lot. But there’s a danger in thinking that somehow God needs us to do those things to worship Him better. The quality of our worship starts with aligning our lives with His will.
Also, again God told King David that worship is initiated by God. In verse 11, God told David that “… I will give you rest from all your enemies. The LORD also declares to you that the LORD will make a house for you.” This “house” in verse 11 refers to the fact that God will grant David’s family and descendents the dynasty of ruling over Israel for generations to come. So instead of David building God a house, God says that He will build a house out of David.
I think God definitely wants us to remove distractions from our worship. In those days, other kings around Israel build temples for their gods as a sign of political power, and even though David’s motives in wanting to build a temple seemed pure, it could still be tempting for him to compare his temple to the pagan temples around Israel and feel a sense of political accomplishment.
In fact, after David’s son Solomon built the first temple, the temple worship was abused numerous times. King Uzziah was supposed to be a good king, but he abused temple worship by burning incense in the temple (2 Chronicles 26:16-19). Prophet Jeremiah scolded the Israelites for thinking that the temple would guarantee their safety no matter how badly they behave (Jeremiah 7:1-11). And in Jesus’ day, he had the cleanse the temple of merchants using the temple courts for personal gain (Matthew 21:12-13).
Our worship to God is not so much what we do. Certainly it’s not us doing a favor for God. But it’s God blessing us in the place with what He’s done for us, and how acceptable our lives are to Him. I hope you all learn something from this today!