When peace finally came upon the reign of David, the first thing David wanted to do was to build a fitting house for God. How magnificent was the temple in David’s mind! How appropriate would it be for David, who defeated many enemies of God’s people, to build a temple to glorify His name! So intuitively good was the idea, that prophet Nathan didn’t even bother to ask for God’s approval. But God had a different view. God told David, “You shall not build a house for my name”.
We can only imagine what David might have felt at the moment. Would he feel rejected for such an innocent, good intention? Would he be discouraged or heartbroken? Our hearts may want to empathize with David, for we too may have been filled with a passion for God, with many presumably great ideas for His church. We might be looking for a suitable church building, we might want to contribute in some ministries, or we may desire to introduce Jesus into someone’s heart. We might think it would be the most wonderful thing we can do for God. But later on our plans don’t come together, we realize that it’s not the time yet, or we’re not the one for the job. Then comes the frustrated feeling that all our efforts were wasted, and we wonder why God wasn’t working with us. We might burden ourselves with the conclusion that our work was unacceptable because God wasn’t pleased in one way or another.
But that was not the path of David’s heart. Very often we associate our success with God’s approval. But shouldn’t God have complete control of what role we play in His good works? If so, then God may want us to focus on another aspect of his work. David clearly thought so, because when the prophet Nathan returned to retract his approval, David’s response was only words of humble thanksgiving (2 Sam 7:18). After this incident we really see David became closer to God’s heart. Originally, he only wanted to build a temple for God that matched the grandeur of his royal palace. But look at how David described his purpose in song:
One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple (Psalms 27:4, ESV).
The house of the Lord is a constant theme in David’s psalms. It is his refuge when his enemies surround him, it is his joy when he sees people going up to worship, and it is the place where he looks for the glory of God and everlasting peace. There is nowhere else David would rather be. Even though David was deemed unfit to build the physical temple, today David’s verses still resonate in the hearts of all who seek to be present in God’s spiritual temple.
So let the joyful thanksgiving of David be an example for us today. We can be joyful even when our work for God seems to yield no result. If anything, it is a necessary proof of our willingness to serve Him in whatever role He deems best. It’s the touchstone of a genuine humility—the necessary element of the only servitude acceptable to Him.