The Death of a Vision
“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: You are not the one to build me a temple to live in.'” – 1 Chronicles 17:4 NLT
David had a great idea. He wanted to do something for God that would reflect his gratitude for all that God had done for he and the nation of Israel. He would build God a permanent temple or dwelling place. Just like all the other gods of the nations had. This idea made sense to David. God had given him a kingdom and he had built himself a palace, so why shouldn’t God have a temple in which to dwell? And David knew he wanted to have God’s presence as a permanent part of his kingdom if he was going to be successful. Where did David get such an idea? Well, obviously not from God as the text makes clear. He probably got the idea from looking at the nations around him. As he conquered other countries, David would see that their capitols contained a palace and a temple, because in the Near Eastern mindset the relationship of the king and the god of that nation were inseparable. The palace was the earthly residence of the king. The temple was the earthly residence of the deity that stood behind that king. So David was simply wanting to have what the other nations had.
His desire was not necessarily wrong or evil. He was wanting to honor God and his plan was based on his understanding that his kingdom was only as powerful as his God was close. But God had other plans for David. He wanted David to be a kingdom builder, not a temple builder. He reminds David that He is the one who chose him and put him on the throne. He did not ask for a temple to be built. David did not need to build a house for God to assure himself of the presence of God. God had been with him the entire time he was hiding in the wilderness. And He was with David now.
God had a job for David to do. He was the warrior-king. He was to do battle with the Philistines and the enemies of Israel. He was the shepherd-king. He was to shepherd and care for the people of Israel by providing them with protection from their enemies. David’s desire to build God a temple would have proved to be a distraction from the very task God had called him to perform. And the same can be true for us. In our desire to do great things for God, we can miss out on the job God has called and equipped us to do. “Often we may have to accept that the work which we would dearly like to perform in terms of Christian service is not that for which we are best equipped, and not that to which God has in fact called us. It may be, like David’s, a preparatory work, leading to something more obviously grand. Recognition and acceptance of our true measure is the first and necessary step towards seeing the significance of what, in God’s purposes, we really can achieve and have achieve.”– J. G. McConville, 1 & 2 Chronicles.
By doing what God had prepared him to do, David would be establishing Israel as a powerful force in the region. He would be setting up Israel as the dominant nation in that area of the world, so that when Solomon took the throne he would enjoy a time of unprecedented peace. And it would be during this time of peace that Solomon would build the temple David dreamed of building. Sometimes our work is preparatory. We are paving the way for something else. Our work may appear less important or somehow less significant, but we must do what God has called us to do. David was going to have to die to his vision. It would be painful and disappointing. But it would prove the best thing that ever happened to David and the nation of Israel. God didn’t need a temple. God needed a man who would obediently do what he was called to do; and leave the rest to God.
Father, sometimes I can come up with all kinds of ideas for serving You. I can get all excited about my plans for making Your kingdom great. But in doing so I have often forgotten to ask You what Your thoughts are. I fail to recognize that my plans can actually get in the way of Yours. And I can lose sight of the work You have called and equipped me to do. Keep me focused on and faithful to Your will, not mine. If I have to die to my vision, give me the strength to do so, and to willingly follow Your plan over mine. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men