This is a story about getting too big for our boots and how God still manages to achieve what he wants. In verses 1-3, David is referred to as the king, but when God refers to David, He calls him My servant David (v5). In relation to the people of Israel and beyond, David is the highest authority in the land. But to God, David is merely a servant. David is living in a palace, and God is living in a tent. David almost appears to be wanting to give God a helping hand! So God reminds him that David maybe a king but he’s still God’s servant, and says to him, “Who are you to be building Me a house?”
The value of a temple, compared to the tabernacle, appears in the NT:
"The Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says: ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things? (Acts 7:44-50).
Stephen argued that God gave Israel the tabernacle, and that the temple was David’s idea. He then went on to show that the God who created all things surely cannot be confined to a dwelling made by human hands. In short, God did not need a temple, and He did not ask for one. He allowed David’s son to build the temple because David wanted it. It wasn’t wrong; it just wasn’t God’s idea. God did not need a temple, and for some, a temple would give the wrong message.
God explains to David why He does not need a temple made by him:
1. “If it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it.” The tabernacle had functioned flawlessly. When the people moved from one place to another, the tabernacle and the ark went with them. God was with his people wherever they went. He gave them victory over their enemies. He gave them the possession of the promised land. There was nothing to fix; the tabernacle did the job!
2. “I didn’t ask for one.” God instructed the Israelites to build the tabernacle; He did not ask for a temple. It was not necessary.
3. God did not need a helping hand! As Peterson puts it:
The message that Nathan delivers to David is dominated by a recital of what God has done, is doing, and will do. God is the first-person subject of twenty-three verbs in this message, and these verbs carry the action. David, full of what he’s going to do for God, is now subjected to a comprehensive rehearsal of what God has done, is doing, and will do for and in David. What looked yesterday like a bold Davidic enterprise on behalf of God now looks picayune [small change].
4. God has so much more to do! God promises to appoint a place for his people where they will be planted. They will have a place of their own (as David intended to give God a “place of His own”), and they will dwell in peace there because the wicked will no longer afflict them. It won’t be like it used to be, from the time of the judges till the present. God will give David rest from all his enemies. This prophecy, like many others, has a near and a distant fulfilment:
a) At the near end is Solomon, David’s second son by Bathsheba. It is he who will take David’s place and reign over Israel after his death. We know that Nathan’s words must refer to Solomon because they include the fact that David’s “son” will sin, and that God will correct him.
b) God calls Jesus his “Son” at His baptism (Luke 3:22) and at His transfiguration (Luke 9:35). Peter makes mention of these words, linking these words to the transfiguration (2 Peter 1:17). The writer to the Hebrews also makes use of these words as proof that Jesus was the promised Jewish Messiah (1:5; 5:5). In 5:5, the author of Hebrews specifically refers to this passage as having been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
c) The word “son” or “sons” is also used of those who have come to faith in Jesus Christ. When we are saved by faith, we become the “sons” of God. This term “sons” not only means we become a child of God, but that we become those who will reign with Him (Rom 8:18-23).
d) When Christ returns to this earth and we are raised from the dead, we are adopted as sons in Christ, and we shall reign with Him for all eternity.
1. Even our highest, most noble ambitions and goals are flawed by sin.
2. No matter how high and lofty our goals and plans may be, God’s plans are greater.
3. The greatness and glory of God’s presence and power are not to be interpreted in the light of how spectacular the surroundings and setting are. God is “enthroned upon the praises of His people” (Psalm 22:3). God has chosen to dwell in a very different “temple” these days; it is the “temple” of His body, the church.
4. We do not need a ‘temple’ in order to worship God. In fact, David is drifting away from worship when he proposes the construction of a temple. All true worship begins, not in a spectacular building, but in focusing on the greatness and the grace of our God.
5. However mature and wise a Christian might become, that does not insulate us from sin. David is in more danger in his palace than he was fleeing from Saul and hiding out in some cave. Every spiritual success is a gift of God’s grace.