The sovereign almighty LORD does not need or want David to build him a house. Instead, God will build his own house (13) through the house he will build for David (11b).
God does not need man, but we need God, and he has already done, and will do, all we need (cf. Acts 17:24-31). So let’s join with David in praising Him and praying, ‘Your will be done’.
David has reached a point of rest and reflection in his reign. He is established as king, he has claimed the capital, built a palace for himself, defeated the Philistines, had children, and successfully brought the ark of God into Jerusalem (2 Sam 5-6). Understandably and for seemingly good reasons, David considers building a house for God (consider Deuteronomy 12, particularly v10-11). Although David was supported initially by Nathan and not reprimanded by God, it is possible that David’s motivations reflect the influence of other near Eastern kings in devoting national resources to building temples for their gods (3).
The message from God is that the development of His relationship with his covenant people has always been based on His agenda, initiative and activity. God lets David down gently – David’s plan is rejected, but his person is not (2). God is already at work towards establishing a house for himself. God does not need David to construct an impressive but lifeless building – God is building a living house in the life of David himself (3). The 2nd part of God’s response is his establishment of a covenant with David, which forms the basis of a lasting dynasty of blessing under God’s kingship that finds it’s ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ. God promises David that he will make his name great (v9b), provide him a place for his people (v10), and provide rest (v11). In the structure of these promises, the lack of apparent obligations on David’s behalf, and David’s response of simple sure belief, this covenant appears to be a new formulation of the Abrahamic covenant (cf. Gen 12:3, 15:6).
God promises that a descendant of David will build a house for God (which David’s son Solomon does) and God will establish his kingdom forever. It is important to note though that it is clearly a kingdom under God, as God establishes the throne, the king is the son, and God is the father (14). Verse 14b-15 anticipate the reality of the history of the Israelite nation from the point of Solomon’s decline, that although God’s love never failed, the people of God brought on themselves the punishment of God through other nations. It is not surprising then that these promises of God were understood as future messianic promises (e.g. Jeremiah 33:14ff, Isaiah 11ff). And clearly from the time of the New Testament on, v12-16 are understood as substantially referring to Jesus (3) – see Acts 13:22-23, Matt 1:17.
David offers a humble, dependent, trusting response in v18-29 – who am I? what more can I say? How great you are! You are God! This is a great model of humility from the one whom God uses as the one to represent all the positive and beneficial aspects of kingship through the rest of scripture (1). David’s prayer connects the kingship of God and the promises he has fulfilled in the past for the people of Israel, with the promises and work of God into the future through himself. I love the way that David prays God’s will back to him, aligning his will to the will of God, and claiming God’s promises as his own. David response expresses the right belief that these are promises from God, fulfilled through God, for the praise of God.
(1) Mary J. Evans, 1 & 2 Samuel, NIBC/UBCS 6 (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2000), 245–252.
(2) Robert P. Gordon, 1 and 2 Samuel, LBI (Exeter: Paternoster, 1986), 235–242.
(3) Robert D. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel, NAC 7 (Nashville: Boradman & Holman, 1996), 334–345.