Commentary on 2 Samuel 7:1-14a
This passage marks an important transition in the story of David and the institution of the Davidic monarchy.
David is at peace and secure in both his house and the kingdom. He considers it time to show his appreciation and make reparation to God. It seems appropriate that when the hand of God has been evident in one’s life, one should make a tangible expression of appreciation to God. That is David’s intent. Before beginning, David seeks the wisdom of the prophet Nathan and obtains his approval for a building project that honors God. So, God’s response to David’s proposition is puzzling and difficult to understand.
Although the sermon is not the best place for either a history lesson on the formation of the Davidic monarchy, nor on Old Testament interpretation, as one seeks to understand this text and apply it appropriately to the context of one’s congregation, it is important to understand the background of this historical and theological writing. Writing in the New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Bruce C. Birch notes: “This chapter is the most theological text in the books of Samuel and perhaps in the entire Deuteronomistic History.”1 His conclusion has to do with the application of this text to the formation of the Davidic dynasty.
In whatever way the text was redacted to fit the actuality of the Davidic line of kings, it speaks theologically in a way that locates God at the source and the center of our lives. One might even say God provides the formative direction of our efforts to do the will of God. So redirecting the focus from the building of David’s house that God promised, and moving beyond Israel to the present, there are lessons to be learned from a contextual reading of the text. These can be addressed through questions that seem to arise from this text that center on the relationship between God and human beings.
- Who can know the mind of the Lord?2 God created us — heart, mind, soul, and body. We are made in the image of God and God speaks into our hearts the things that God would have us do. In this way we can gain knowledge of what God requires of us, which is in essence the mind of God. Because of sin we no longer have the purity of the divine/human relationship that was ours in creation. In our humanness we have been separated from God, and our thoughts are clouded, preventing us from doing only that which honors God. Or is the message that, no one is allowed to step out and do anything in the name or for the sake of God unless one hears directly from God? One must verify that what one desires to do for God or for the people of God meets with God’s favor.
- Can anyone repay God? David’s desire is to repay God for all that God has done to bring him to the place and position in which he finds himself. The ultimate gift of God that has positioned all people to be brought back into oneness with God is, of course, the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ. As Christians, each of us may be able to point to specific things in our lives that we attribute to the hand of God, and we are also ongoing recipients of God’s grace that is free and cannot be repaid. In the church, our tithes are given in recognition and not as repayment for God’s blessings. No one can repay God and we need not try.
- Who speaks for God? It is said the prophet speaks for God, but is every preacher a prophet, and what makes one’s preaching prophetic? David appropriately approaches the prophet Nathan and receives his blessing for the plan that he has decided to implement. Did Nathan misunderstand God’s greater plan, or did he neglect to consult with God before giving David the go-ahead for his plan? The text does not tell us, but it reminds us that when we desire to speak on God’s behalf, it behooves us preachers and prophets to check in with God so that we are assured that our message is indeed what God wants to say to the people.
- Does God still speak to God’s prophets? God comes to Nathan by night and gives the prophet a message for David. The text does not say why God did not speak directly to David. But God chose the prophet as the recipient of God’s message to be God’s voice to David and all the people of Israel. And God still speaks to God’s prophet today, sending messages that are to be delivered for the good of the people. Being faithful in delivering the message is the responsibility of the prophet. God’s message must be delivered just as it has been received for the benefit of the people.
- Does God still care about the details of our lives enough to provide specific direction? When Nathan received the message, there were no gaps in the story of God’s plan for the future. Whether the text was developed to support the reality of the monarchy of Israel or is an accurate representation of the events that took place, is irrelevant to the fact that it speaks of God’s real presence in human endeavors. God cared about David and set a plan in order for his future. God cares about all of God’s children and has developed a plan for each one that offers a fruitful future. What we are called to do is listen for it. As preachers, listen to what God is saying for your life and for the lives of God’s people who are in your care. Then having received it, deliver the message to God’s people faithfully and let God do the work of bringing the future to fruition.
- Bruce C. Birch. New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Volume ll. 1&2 Samuel. (Nashville: Abingdon Press), 199, 1254.
- See Romans 11:34 and 1 Corinthians 2:16