Much of our religious work could be described as building a house for God. With great effort and expense, we toil to build congregations, programs, and buildings. We do so because we love people. We do so because we love God. We want to honor and glorify our Lord to the best of our ability. We are not satisfied with the current level of worship and adoration being attributed to him. He is the Holy Redeemer of his people, and he deserves much more honor than he is currently receiving. Therefore, for the rest of our days, many of us are consumed with building the kingdom of God. He is the cornerstone; his disciples are the foundation stones; and we are eager to construct a church worthy of his name.
King David had a similar passion. While the king lived in several houses of cedar and costly stones, the King of Kings was worshiped in a tent. David’s house was fixed and permanent; God dwelt in a mobile home. Therefore, when David compared his house to that of the pagan deities and his own dwelling place, he became increasingly uncomfortable. God deserved more honor and dignity. So David developed his plans and stated his longing to build a cathedral for God. Immense effort and great expense would be extended. Only the best would do.
Wisely, David presented his plan to the prophet Nathan. Originally, the prophet gave him the green light; this seemed like a no-brainer. David was applauded for his vision, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you.” (2 Samuel 7:3) There was nothing wrong with his desire. As a matter of fact, God would later commend David’s passion through the words of Solomon, “Now it was in the heart of David my father to build a house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. But the Lord said to David my father, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart.” (1 Kings 8:17-18) David’s expensive affection was pleasing to the Lord.
However, both Nathan and David were redirected or ammended by God:
But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” ’ Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. (2 Samuel 7:4-11)
Someday God would have a more impressive physical structure. God would encourage David and Solomon to build a more permanent monument attesting to the Lord’s relationship with his Chosen People. However, God wished to augment an important truth:
Covenantal worship is more about God providing a Son, and him building a house for his people, than it is about his people building a house for God.
Jesus Christ is the promised Son of David. He is the King who will reign forever and ever.
Jesus Christ is the promised Tabernacle or Temple. In him the fullness of God dwells. In him the Shekinah Glory of God is found with our measure. Faithful worshipers, priests, and saints are found in him. He is the altar of sacrifice and the water of life. He is the bread that satisfies, the incense that pleases the Father, and the light of the world.
Therefore, let us plant more churches and secure more buildings. Let us spend money and time developing schools, programs, and strategies that make disciples and exalt the name of Jesus Christ. And let us do the work of Christ with excellence, for it is not wrong to wish to leave a legacy that will outlast our contemporary generation. Congregations, programs, and buildings are not wrong, but they are so secondary. In our ministerial labors, let us always keep first things first: Covenantal worship is more about God providing a Son, and him building a house for his people, than it is about his people building a house for God.
So in our religious life today, three principles should be kept in mind. First, may we focus more on the spiritual and eternal over the earthly and structural. Grand, ornate, spectacular buildings and programs do not always equate to God’s blessing. They are not even necessary. Many times, God is present in the tent and absent in the cathedral.
Secondly, as part of Christ’s temple, may we shine well on his behalf. In our character, conversations, work-ethic, family, fellowship and external presentation, let us bring glory to him.
Finally, may we focus on grace before we focus on work. All that we do for God flows from a consciousness that God has done all for us. Relish in the God who constructs his own house and places us in his temple, then go labor well for him in expanding the kingdom of God.