Disappointment for David

Posted Nov 22, 2021

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Daily Scripture

1 Chronicles 17:1-15

1 When David was settled into his palace [or here and elsewhere in this chapter, house] he said to the prophet Nathan, “I’m living in a cedar palace while the chest containing the LORD’s covenant is under curtains.”

2 Nathan replied, “Go ahead and do whatever you are thinking, because God is with you.”

3 But that very night God’s word came to Nathan: 4 Go to my servant David and tell him, This is what the LORD says: You are not the one to build the temple [or here and elsewhere in this chapter, house] for me to live in. 5 In fact, I haven’t lived in a temple from the day I brought Israel out until this very day. I’ve been traveling from tent to tent and from dwelling to dwelling. 6 Throughout my traveling with the Israelites, did I ever ask one of Israel’s tribal leaders, whom I appointed to shepherd my people, Why haven’t you built me a cedar temple?

7 So then, say this to my servant David: This is what the LORD of heavenly forces says: I myself took you from the pasture, from following the flock, to be leader over my people Israel. 8 I’ve been with you wherever you’ve gone. I’ve eliminated all your enemies before you. Now I will make your name great—like the name of the greatest people on earth. 9 I’m going to provide a place for my people Israel, and plant them so that they may live there and no longer be disturbed. Cruel people will no longer trouble them as they did earlier, 10 when I appointed judges over my people Israel. I’ll subdue all your enemies and make you great. As for a dynasty, the LORD will build one for you! 11 When the time comes for you to die, I will raise up a descendant of yours after you, one of your own sons, to succeed you, and I will establish his kingship. 12 He is the one who will build me a temple, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will become his father and he will become my son, and I’ll never withdraw my faithful love from him as I did from the one before you. 14 I’ll install him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne will be established forever.

15 Nathan faithfully reported all that he had seen and heard to David.

Reflection Questions

Israel’s King David already had many historic successes. He united Israel’s 12 tribes (cf. 2 Samuel 5:1-3). He took Jerusalem (cf. 2 Samuel 5:6-9), made it their capital city, and praised God by bringing the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem (cf. 2 Samuel 6:12-15). Building a temple to house the ark must have seemed a logical next step. But through the prophet Nathan, God said, “no,” which was surely a disappointment. He said David’s son would succeed him, and he should build the temple.

  • Scholar John Goldingay saw a key drawback to David’s temple idea. “It reverses the relationship between God and David. God has been the one who has taken responsibility for the big initiatives and achievements in Israel’s story. To put it theologically, what has happened has depended on God’s grace.”* How can Nathan’s message remind us of the danger of taking credit for even good things we do as our accomplishment, rather than God’s grace working through us?
  • Chronicles (written after Israel’s Babylonian exile) echoed 2 Samuel 7:16’s pledge that God would establish David’s dynasty “forever.” But in fact “they had descendants of David in their midst but not on the throne.”** Had God’s promise failed? Only temporarily, it turned out. Centuries later, an angel told Mary her God-given son would ultimately reign on “the throne of David his father” (Luke 1:32-33). Across centuries, God kept his promise. How can that deepen your trust in God?


Lord God, keep me aware that any good I do, any way I help to build your kingdom, is a testimonial to your grace at work through my life and my God-given gifts. Amen.

* John Goldingay, 1 and 2 Chronicles for Everyone. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012, p. 47.

** Ibid.

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Donna Karlen

Donna Karlen

Donna Karlen serves with the Communications Ministry working on special projects.

David’s motivation for wanting to build a temple seems pretty well-meaning: “I’m living in a cedar palace while the chest containing the LORD’s covenant is under curtains,” is what David said to Nathan. It appears he wanted to glorify God by creating a beautiful and holy building in God’s honor.

Ah - but David was only human. Perhaps at least a small part of him was thinking about the engraved plaque (or probably a chiseled stone) that would bear his name and be placed somewhere prominently in the temple.

Do you ever struggle with a part of you wanting to do good deeds but also maybe, kinda, sorta wanting a little recognition for your work? In my job with the MS Achievement Center (MSAC), I recently created a video about one of our members who was diagnosed with MS at the young age of 23. He has been living with the disease for 12 years. Once an energetic young gymnast, he is now confined to a wheel chair and struggles to speak because of the damage to the nerves needed for mobility and speech. He attends the MSAC for physical and occupational therapy to help him maintain as much physical and mental function and independence as possible. He also comes for connection with others who are on the same journey to live their best lives - not letting MS take everything from them - even as they deal every day with catheters and constipation and navigating uneven sidewalks and opening jars designed to keep the contents inside from getting contaminated but not for being opened by muscles that can’t be innervated by damaged nerves... Living with pain, exhaustion, loss of energy... so many losses.

I had just a few days to create this video that would be shown at our fundraising event. It needed to inspire attendees to give $25,000 on the spot. Was there a part of me that was excited to put my name on this project? Duh. But as I recorded interviews with this man and his family and captured photos and footage of him giving everything he had in him to fight through the effects of this disease slowly robbing him of who he was and who he wanted to be - and doing it with a smile on his face - this video became a way to honor him. I wanted it to succeed, and I wanted that success to be for our mission and for our members.

Like David, I’m human. I like to do good things. And I really, REALLY want to want to do them for God’s glory. The struggle is real, and it’s ongoing.

And thankfully, so is God’s grace.

(The Multiple Sclerosis Achievement Center is part of the University of Kansas Neurology Department and is one of just a few such programs supporting individuals with progressive MS offered in the US. Learn more at http://www.msachievementcenter.org).

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