Imagine for a moment offering to build a temple for the Almighty God and being told, “No.” That is exactly what occurs for David in 2 Samuel 7. David was to be commended. Unlike the people of Haggai’s day who dwelt in paneled houses while the Lord had no house (Haggai 1:1–6), David actually felt guilty for living in a luxurious home while the Ark of God rested in a tent (2 Sam. 7:2). Initially, the prophet Nathan determines the proposal of David to be a great thing (v. 3). But later, the Lord sends Nathan to tell David not to build the temple.
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. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. –2 Samuel 7:8–13
Later David charges his son Solomon concerning the building of the temple. David said, “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house to the name of the LORD my God. But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have waged great wars. You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me on the earth’” (1 Chron. 22:7–8). Traditionally, the interpretation of David’s statement is that God would not allow him to build a temple as a form of chastisement for his violent warring.
In order to understand God’s reasons for not allowing David to build the temple, both passages must be harmonized. In 2 Samuel, God’s reason for not allowing David to build the temple was because the house and throne of David was to be established forever. The offspring of David afterward would build the Lord’s House. It is important to understand that God’s requirement in 2 Samuel 7 of establishing the people of Israel so that they would no longer be afflicted and establishing the throne of David forever required great bloodshed. The only way to establish David’s house and throne was through violent wars on the oppressing enemies surrounding Israel. The only way to plant Israel so that they would be planted and disturbed no more was through violent bloodshed. Harmonizing the two passages together shows that while David was not allowed to build the temple due to bloodshed, God actually not only approved of David shedding that blood—He commanded it.
It must be noted that the throne of David took a greater priority than a temple for the grandest of reasons: the throne of David would still stand long after the temple had been torn down and rebuilt. The throne of David was required for more than just a physical throne for Israel—that throne was established so that Jesus Christ would sit on the throne of David today long after the need for temple-based worship had ceased. The reader today has the benefit of understanding the need for David’s throne within the context of God’s plan for man’s redemption unlike David who merely saw a need for God to have a temple.
It should impress the Bible student to realize and understand the importance of God’s plan for man’s redemption. God loved all mankind so much that He preferred to dwell in curtains in order to firmly establish the Messianic throne so that mankind could be the recipients of the gift of grace. Yes, thousands of years ago God showed His love for us by seeking our interests above His own.