Oh man, this is an amazing section of Scripture!
Here in 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17 is God’s promise to preserve the line of David forever. Part of me wants to just post the whole section (which is essentially the same story twice) and just let you bask in the goodness of God’s promises. But I will resist that temptation, although you can read the story here.
Instead, I want to bring just one aspect of this story into view. I could obviously speak about Christ as the ultimate fulfillment of this promise, which He is, but I want to draw our attention to something specific, namely the way that we understand how we serve God and He serves us.
The story begins with David’s earnest desire to build the Lord a house, a temple. David is racked with guilt because he is now in a splendid home while God “resides” in a tent, the tabernacle. But God informs David that his earnest desire is misguided. He says:
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?”
In other words, God says, “I don’t need your help.” This is such an important truth for us to remember. We do not serve God because He needs us. He does not need anything. Which is why in Romans 11, Paul asks the rhetorical question, “Who has given a gift to (God) that He might be repaid?” The answer of course, is no one. God receives our service the way that a parent receives a drawing from a child. The parent doesn’t need the gift, nor do they love the child any more for having given it; they simply rejoice in the spontaneous act of love that they have been shown.
But God is not honored when we serve Him because we feel compelled or obligated or as if we have something to offer. In fact, serving Him in this way is not service at all; it is self-serving. And David was trying to serve God in this way. He felt guilty, and that guilt compelled him.
But God shows David another way, the true way. God tells David this:
I declare to you that the Lord will build you a house.
God serves David! God gives David something that David cannot give himself, a house, or more specifically, a lasting name and a kingdom. God does not want us to work for Him. He works for us! He saves us, justifies us, sanctifies us, and glorifies us. And He has done all of this through Christ who said, “The Son of Man came… to serve”.
This is the great irony of the Christian faith. As long as we try to work for God, we will not be saved, but as soon as we surrender that desire over to Him and recognize that He has done such a great work for us in Christ, we will receive the salvation that we had worked so hard to gain. He builds us a home within His great family. And He has served us in a way that can never be repaid, but the good news for us is that He does not ask us to repay. He calls us to enjoy the gift, and the Giver of that gift. Forever.