1 Chronicles 17 – A House for God and a House for David
“This chapter lies at the heart of the Chronicler’s presentation of history.” (Martin J. Selman)
A. God’s promise to David.
1. (1-2) Nathan’s premature advice to David.
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.”
a. Now it came to pass: “Chronologically chapter 17 came after the termination of the wars chronicled in chapter 18 and it should be dated about 995 B.C.” (Payne)
b. I dwell in a house of cedar: Cedar wood was especially valued. This means that David lived in an expensive, beautiful home. When he remembered that the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under tent curtains, the contrast bothered him. David was troubled by the thought that he lived in a nicer house than the ark of the covenant.
i. Without saying the specific words, David told Nathan that he wanted to build a temple to replace the tabernacle. More than 400 years before this, when Israel was in the wilderness, God commanded Moses to build a tent of meeting according to a specific pattern (Exodus 25:8-9). God never asked for a permanent building to replace the tent, but now David wanted to do this for God.
ii. The tent of meeting – also known as the tabernacle – was perfectly suited to Israel in the wilderness, because they constantly moved. Now that Israel was securely in the land, and the tabernacle was in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:17), David thought it would be better and more appropriate to build a temple to replace the tabernacle.
c. Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you: Nathan said this to David because it seemed good and reasonable. What could be wrong with David building a temple?
i. All that is in your heart shows that David’s heart was filled with this question: “What can I do for God?” He was so filled with gratitude and concern for God’s glory that he wanted to do something special for God.
2. (3-6) God corrects Nathan’s hasty approval of David’s plan to build a temple.
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. For I have not dwelt in a house since the time that I brought up Israel, even to this day, but have gone from tent to tent, and from one tabernacle to another. Wherever I have moved about with all Israel, have I ever spoken a word to any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people, saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?”’”
a. That night that the word of God came to Nathan: Nathan’s response to David was presumptuous. He answered according to human judgment and common sense, but before the word of God came to him.
i. “It is of the utmost importance that we should ever test our desires, even the highest and holiest of them, by His will. Work, excellent in itself, should never be undertaken, save at the express command of God. The passing of time will always vindicate the wisdom of the Divine will.” (Morgan)
b. For I have not dwelt in a house since the time that I brought up Israel, even to this day: God seemed honored and “surprised” that David offered to build Him a house. “You want to build Me a house? No one has ever offered to do that before, and I never commanded anyone to do it.”
i. “The Hebrew text says literally, ‘build me the house.’ The idea of there being such a house was legitimate, just that David was not the one to build it.” (Payne)
ii. David wanted to do more than God commanded. This is a wonderful place to be in our relationship with God. Most of us are so stuck in the thinking, “How little can I do and still please the LORD?” that we never really want to do more than God commands.
iii. “Though the Lord refused to David the realization of his wish, he did it in a most gracious manner. He did not put the idea away from him in anger or disdain, as though David had cherished an unworthy desire; but he honored his servant even in the non-acceptance of his offer.” (Spurgeon)
iv. David now knew that God didn’t want him to build the temple, but David didn’t respond by doing nothing. Instead of building the temple, David gathered all the materials for its construction so Solomon could build a glorious temple to God (1 Chronicles 29:2-9).
v. “If you cannot have what you hoped, do not sit down in despair and allow the energies of your life to run to waste; but arise, and gird yourself to help others to achieve. If you may not build, you may gather materials for him that shall. If you may not go down the mine, you can hold the ropes.” (Meyer)
3. (7-10) God promises to build David a house.
Now therefore, thus shall you say to My servant David, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘I took you from the sheepfold, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you have gone, and have cut off all your enemies from before you, and have made you a name like the name of the great men who are on the earth. Moreover I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own and move no more; nor shall the sons of wickedness oppress them anymore, as previously, since the time that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel. Also I will subdue all your enemies. Furthermore I tell you that the LORD will build you a house.’”
a. I took you from the sheepfold, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people: God was about to make David an amazing promise – one that might be hard for David to believe. Therefore, He first reminded David of His past work in His life. The same God who was with David wherever he had gone would also fulfill this promise.
b. I will appoint a place for My people Israel: God promised David that under his reign, God would establish a permanent, secure, Israel. God promised this first because He knew that David, being a godly shepherd, was first concerned about the welfare of his people.
c. Furthermore I tell you that the LORD will build you a house: God promised David that He would build him a house in the sense of establishing a dynasty for the house of David. This was an enduring legacy for David long after his death.
i. David wanted to build God a temple. God said, “Thank you David, but no thanks. Let me build you a house instead.” This was a greater promise than David’s offer to God because David’s house would last longer and be more glorious than the temple David wanted to build.
ii. “The oracle’s significance depends on the various meanings of the Hebrew bayit, ‘house’, which can mean ‘dynasty’, ‘temple’, and even ‘household’ (1 Chronicles 16:43).” (Selman)
iii. Why did God say, “No” to David’s offer? Because David was a man of war, and God wanted a man of peace to build His temple. 1 Chronicles 22:8-10 explains this: But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have made great wars; you shall not build a house for My name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in My sight…a son shall be born to you, who shall be a man of rest…He shall build a house for My name.
iv. The explanation to David recorded in 1 Chronicles 22:8 came years afterwards. “It would have wounded David needlessly to have been told this at the time…. Meanwhile David possessed his soul in patience, and said to himself, ‘God has a reason; I cannot understand it, but it is well.’ “ (Meyer)
v. “Our relationship with God is always based upon what He does for us, never upon what we do for Him. If He wills that we build a Temple, it is ours to do it, but the doing of it creates no merit by which we may claim anything from Him.” (Morgan)
4. (11-15) God promises to build David a house instead.
“And it shall be, when your days are fulfilled, when you must go to be with your fathers, that I will set up your seed after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever. 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 who was before you. And I will establish him in My house and in My kingdom forever; and his throne shall be established forever.” According to all these words and according to all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David.
a. I will set up your seed after you: In this, God specifically promised a hereditary monarchy for the house of David. It was important for God to repeat this promise specifically because there had never yet been a king succeeded by his son in Israel.
i. “The ambiguity inherent in the Hebrew word zera, like its English equivalents ‘seed’ (AV) or offspring (NIV, NRSV, RSV), means it can apply both to the dynasty as a whole and to individual members of it (cf. the use of the same word in Genesis 3:15; 12:7; 17:7; 17:16).” (Selman)
ii. “While God did not here employ the term covenant, what he revealed was one; and it is so designated subsequently (2 Samuel 23:5; Psalm 89:3, 34; Psalm 132:11-12).” (Payne)
b. He shall build Me a house: Though David would not build a temple for God, David’s descendant would.
i. “Like circumcision in the case of the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 17), building the temple is the act of human obedience by which God’s covenant promise is accepted and confirmed.” (Selman)
c. I will establish his throne forever: The family of David did rule over Israel for more than four centuries but was eventually removed because of evil added upon evil. Yet out of the “stump” of Jesse, God raised up a new branch that would reign forever and ever (Isaiah 11:1-2).
d. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son: This descendant of David would enjoy a special relationship with God.
e. His throne shall be established forever: God promised David that the reign of his dynasty would last forever.
i. Each of these great promises was partially fulfilled in Solomon, David’s son and the successor to his throne.
· Solomon ruled on David’s throne.
· God’s mercies never departed from Solomon, though he sinned.
· Solomon built God a magnificent house.
ii. Yet God’s promise to David was all the more important because of when the Chronicler wrote about it – after the exile when there was no independent kingdom of Israel and the throne of David seemed vacant. The Chronicler had the faith to see that this promise was not broken even when it plainly seemed to be. He knew that Messiah would indeed come from the seemingly dead line of David and reign forever. He had faith in what the prophets foretold as a greater fulfillment of these promises:
· Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, that I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth…. Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Jeremiah 23:5-6)
· For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder…. Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it…from that time forward, even forever. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
· And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:31-33)
iii. God did not want the earthly house built until the spiritual house was promised and established. The more important house had to be in place first, and that house was the dynasty that would result in the throne of God’s Messiah.
iv. As for David, God’s blessing was upon him in a unique way. The New Testament identifies Jesus with David more than with any other human ancestor.
· Hosanna to the Son of David! (Matthew 21:9)
· The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. (Luke 1:32)
· I am the Root and Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star. (Revelation 22:16)
v. It also seems that David will be God’s chosen prince over a restored Israel in the millennial earth. Hosea 3:5 says, Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They shall fear the LORD and His goodness in the latter days. Other passages which set forth this idea are Ezekiel 37:24-25, Ezekiel 34:23-24, and Jeremiah 30:9.
B. David’s thankful response.
1. (16-22) David’s humble thanksgiving and praise to God.
Then King David went in and sat before the LORD; and he said: “Who am I, O LORD God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far? And yet this was a small thing in Your sight, O God; and You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have regarded me according to the rank of a man of high degree, O LORD God. What more can David say to You for the honor of Your servant? For You know Your servant. O LORD, for Your servant’s sake, and according to Your own heart, You have done all this greatness, in making known all these great things. O LORD, there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And who is like Your people Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people—to make for Yourself a name by great and awesome deeds, by driving out nations from before Your people whom You redeemed from Egypt? For You have made Your people Israel Your very own people forever; and You, LORD, have become their God.”
a. Who am I, O LORD God?…. O LORD, there is none like You: When David received this spectacular gift, he didn’t think it made him any greater. In David’s eyes it made God greater.
i. “Thou hast treated me as if I had been born the son of a great monarch, and not a poor shepherd, as indeed I was, O Lord God.” (Poole)
ii. David’s attitude wasn’t “I am so great that even God gives me gifts.” His attitude was, “God is so great that He gives even me gifts.” We should receive salvation and every blessing with the same attitude. God’s giving reflects the greatness of the Giver, not the receiver.
b. Your servant: David’s humble reception of this gift is shown by the repetition of the phrase Your servant – ten times in this prayer.
i. It shows that David humbly accepted God’s “no” when he wanted to build the temple. “There are some professors who would do a great thing if they might, but if they are not permitted to act a shining part they are in the sulks and angry with their God. David when his proposal was set aside found it in his heart not to murmur, but to pray.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “The king’s sitting ‘before the Lord’ suggests that he went to the tent that was enshrining the ark.” (Payne)
2. (23-27) David boldly asks that the promise be fulfilled as spoken.
“And now, O LORD, the word which You have spoken concerning Your servant and concerning his house, let it be established forever, and do as You have said. So let it be established, that Your name may be magnified forever, saying, ‘The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, is Israel’s God.’ And let the house of Your servant David be established before You. For You, O my God, have revealed to Your servant that You will build him a house. Therefore Your servant has found it in his heart to pray before You. And now, LORD, You are God, and have promised this goodness to Your servant. Now You have been pleased to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue before You forever; for You have blessed it, O LORD, and it shall be blessed forever.”
a. Let it be established forever, and do as You have said: David’s prayer boldly asked God to do what He promised. This wasn’t passive prayer that said, “Well God, do whatever You want to do – I don’t really care one way or another.” This wasn’t arrogant prayer that said, “Well God, let me tell You what to do.” This was bold prayer that said, “God, here is Your promise – now I trust You to fulfill it grandly and to be faithful to Your word.”
i. The phrase “therefore Your servant has found it in his heart to pray before You” emphasizes this. David was saying, “I’m only praying because You promised. You told me that this is what You want to do.”
ii. “There is hardly any position more utterly beautiful, strong, or safe than to put the finger upon some promise of the Divine Word, and claim it…. It is far better to claim a few things specifically than a score vaguely.” (Meyer)
iii. This kind of prayer appropriates God’s promise. Just because God promises does not mean that we possess. Through believing prayer like this, God promises and we appropriate. If we don’t appropriate in faith, God’s promise is left unclaimed.
· We may appropriate His promise for forgiveness: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
· We may appropriate His promise for peace: Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you: not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27).
· We may appropriate His promise for guidance: I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go: I will guide you with My eye (Psalm 32:8).
· We may appropriate His promise for growth: He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).
· We may appropriate His promise for help: Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
b. Therefore Your servant has found it in his heart to pray before You: Notice that David prayed from the heart. Some people pray from a book; others pray from their mind. The right place to pray from is the heart.
c. LORD, You are God, and have promised this goodness to Your servant: This was David’s foundation of faith. He knew that God was God and that His promise was true. God can be trusted.
i. “The great sin of not believing in the Lord Jesus Christ is often spoken of very lightly and in a very trifling spirit, as though it were scarcely any sin at all; yet, according to my text, and, indeed, according to the whole tenor of the Scriptures, unbelief is the giving of God the lie, and what can be worse?” (Spurgeon)