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David, part 10

David Desires But is Forbidden to Build a House for the Ark of the Lord to Dwell in.

2 Samuel 7

The scene which the sacred historian now presents to us is the peaceful one of David sitting in his house with Nathan the prophet. The Lord had given him rest round about from all his enemies. Regarding the glory of God more than his own splendour, he says to Nathan, "See now, I dwell in an house of cedar, and the ark of God dwells within curtains." It would be a very low idea of this sentiment to transfer it literally to ourselves, and regard it as a reproof of our own not uncommon practice, of surrounding ourselves with elegance and comfort, and leaving the house of God with but scant provision of either. But if we did apply his words in this way, we should receive but small encouragement from the sequel of David's zealous plea for the honour of his God. The prophet, indeed, sympathized with David's sentiment, and entered warmly into his idea. "Nathan said to the king, Go, do all that is in your heart; for the Lord is with you." But both prophet and king had resolved without asking counsel of Him whom they desired to honour. "It came to pass that night, that the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying, Go and tell My servant David, Thus says the Lord, Shalt you build Me an house for Me to dwell in?" Since the Lord brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, He had walked in a tent and in a tabernacle, and had asked none of the tribes or judges, "Why build you not Me an house of cedar?" He had taken David from the sheepcote to make him a ruler over His people Israel; He had been with him wherever he went; He had cut off all his enemies; He had made him a great name. Moreover, He would appoint a place for His people Israel, which they would dwell in, and move no more, neither be afflicted any more by the children of wickedness: He would also build David a house. Notwithstanding all this, not he, but his son that should reign after him would build a house for the Lord to dwell in.

In all that the Lord says to Nathan, no reason is given why the temple was not to be built by David but by Solomon. The reason is made known when the temple is about to be built. Here we may say that, as the temple represented the glorified humanity, it was to be built by the king by whom that humanity was represented. Our principal object here is to notice some of the particulars of the present narrative.

If David represented the Lord, how are we to understand his ignorance of the Divine will in regard to the building of a house to His name? In the Gospel history there is the appearance, at least, of the Lord being ignorant of some things. We need not stop to consider the instances in which the Lord marvels, and makes inquiries. He who needed not that any should testify of man, for He knew what was in man, and who gave so many evidences of knowing persons and events at a distance, could not be really ignorant of persons and circumstances near at hand. There is, however, one instance in which the Lord Himself makes confession of His ignorance. Of His own second coming He says, "Of that day and that hour knows no man, no, not the angels who are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father" (Mark 13:32). We might take this statement in all its literalness, if Jesus were a mere man, or even the first created intelligence. But if we admit His Divinity, it is impossible to understand it in its merely literal sense. For even if we believed Him to be a Divine person distinct from His Father, it could make no difference, since the Three Persons of the Godhead have all equal Divinity. But when we understand the distinction in the Godhead to be that of Essentials, we can see the ground of our Lord's declaration. The Father is the Divine love, the Son is the Divine wisdom. Now the first Christian Church or dispensation is called the kingdom of the Son, and the second is called the kingdom of the Father. Thus St. Paul speaks of the end, when the Son shall deliver up the kingdom to the Father; when the Son also Himself shall be subject to the Father, that God may be all in all (1 Cor 15:28). This is commonly explained as relating to what is called the Lord's mediatorial kingdom, which the Son is to resign at the end of the world, when His intercession for sinners shall no more be required. But what of the Son being subject to the Father? There is a dogmatic answer, but it is unnecessary to consider it. Thankful we may be that we are delivered from all this perplexity. Clear and beautiful is the truth, that the kingdom of the Son is the Church and the member of the Church as governed by Divine wisdom or truth, and that the kingdom of the Father is the Church and the member of the Church as governed by Divine love. The kingdom of the Son must of necessity precede the kingdom of the Father. Truth must reign till all things are put under its feet; till all rebellious thoughts and affections are subdued, and made subject to Christ. But when all enemies, or all enmities, are put under the power of the truth of God, then His truth gives up the kingdom to His love, which enters on its peaceful reign. Even truth itself becomes subject to love; for faith becomes secondary and subordinate to charity, truth to goodness, the understanding to the will. Love is the fulfilling of the law. Against love there is no law. He who has love is not under the law. The law has done its work. It has put all things under its feet; and it has resigned the kingdom to love, and is itself subject to its beneficent rule.

How plain is the analogy in this case to the reign of David and that of Solomon. David was a man of war; Solomon was a man of peace. Yet Solomon owed his peaceful reign to the warlike reign of David. The Lord put all the enemies of Israel under David's feet; and when all the enemies of Israel were conquered, a reign of peace followed as its natural sequence. But all this does not reveal the cause or explain the fact of the Son not knowing the day and hour of visitation and of His future coming; or David's mistaken zeal for the Lord's house. The Lord's ignorance of the day and hour of His coming was not absolute but relative. Nothing could be hid from His infinite wisdom; but His wisdom does not reveal His love except to those who receive it. Time is the symbol of state. A state of love is unknown to those who are in a state of truth. Every state reveals itself to those who enter it. In a lower state we may know that a higher exists; but what that state is in itself, we can only know by experience. We know that the reign of law is to be followed by the reign of love, but what that love is, love only knows and can reveal. We may, like David, desire and even attempt to anticipate it; but the Divine command is, to refrain. A new birth is to take place before this work can be performed, this new house built. "When your days be fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, which shall proceed out of your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever." The two kingdoms, the spiritual and the celestial, of which heaven consists, and which were also represented by the kingdom of David and Solomon, are so distinct, that the wisdom of the angels of the higher kingdom transcends the apprehension of the angels of the lower; nor can any enter into celestial wisdom until they attain the celestial state. The new name in the white stone no man knows save he that receives it.

Such is the Divine mode of teaching us that every state of life or stage of regeneration has its own duties, its own work, and its own kind and measure of knowledge. And as it is with individuals, so it is with dispensations. One passes into another, and yet so distinct are they in character, that one can neither know nor do what belongs to the state and uses of its successor.

When Nathan delivered the Divine message to David, then went in king David, and sat before the Lord; and, with profound humility and deep gratitude, poured out his heart before Him. Adoring the Lord God, besides whom there is no God, who had redeemed Israel for Himself, from the nations and their gods, he praises Him for the good which He had spoken concerning His servant, and for His gracious promise that He would establish his house for ever.

Whether we regard David as a type of the Saviour or of the saint, and his prayer as expressive of the Lord's aspirations to the Father or of the saint's pious adorations of his Saviour, we may learn a great lesson. The states of humiliation through which the Lord passed during the days in which He carried our frail nature, teach us lessons of profound wisdom. They tell us, so far as we can comprehend them, what the Lord endured and did for our sake, and also what we must endure and do for His: with this important difference, that all He did was for our benefit, while all we are required to do is for our own. For His sake, indeed, our works, both of passion and of action, must be done, for the end sanctifies the deed. Our works are good only when the Lord is in them as their end and cause, when His love prompts and His wisdom guides us. Self-abnegation must lie at the root of our self-denial as well as of our active duties. For it is possible to practise self-denial for the sake of self, as well as do good deeds for the sake of reward. Self-abnegation is a high state to attain, and can only be reached by patience and perseverance. But not only have we the example of our blessed Lord before us, we have His Spirit with us—that of which it is said, "The Holy Spirit was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:39). The Spirit of Jesus differs from the Spirit of Jehovah. The Spirit of Jehovah was rather a creative than a regenerative Spirit. The Spirit of Jesus is the Spirit and power of all that He accomplished in the world; it is the Spirit of Jehovah in His Divine humanity, and it therefore conveys to those who receive it the power to become, by regeneration, images of what the Lord has become by glorification.

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