At the height of his career as Israel’s second king, David desired to build a monument to the God who had so spectacularly blessed him. When David presented his plan to build a temple in Jerusalem to his spiritual advisor Nathan, the Lord’s response came that David was not to build a house for God but that He would build a house for David. God, in His divine humor, used a play on words to establish a new line of blessing. God had brought a new factor of reality into the movement of human destiny. David was not to build a building for God, but God would establish a family lineage for the king whom God recognized as a man after His own heart. The Lord further promised that it would never fail that one of David’s descendants would sit on the throne in Jerusalem. From that moment on, a new covenant was in force. Psalm eighty-nine is a poetic description of this covenant, which was to be passed on to one son at a time throughout all generations.
My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah. (verses 34-37)
Solomon was the first heir to David’s throne. It was during his reign that Israel reached her zenith in all areas. Israel actually became the focus of all human interest because of Solomon’s wealth, wisdom, and wonderful architecture. However, Solomon failed tragically in his responsibilities to God. Of the seven-fold job description for the king of Israel spelled out in Deuteronomy chapter seventeen, Solomon violated all but two — and these were two that were the ones that were impossible for him to break:
1. He had to be a Jew.
2. He had to be called by God.
He blatantly violated the other five.
3. The king was not to acquire numbers of horses. First Kings 10:26 declares that Solomon maintained fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horsemen.
4. The king was not to make treaties with Egypt and buy horses there. Second Chronicles 9:28 declares that he did just that.
5. The king was not to take many wives. First Kings 11:3 lists Solomon’s wives as being seven hundred plus three hundred concubines.
6. The king was not to acquire large amounts of gold and silver. First Kings 10:27 astounds us with the fact that Solomon made silver as common as stones in Jerusalem.
7. The king was required to make a copy of the law for himself and read it daily to continue to revere the Lord and obey His decrees. First Kings 11:9 records Solomon’s tragic failure on this point.
Upon the death of Solomon, his son Rehoboam came to the throne. Jeroboam (an officer under Solomon who had been charged as a dissident) pleaded with the new king to lessen the taxes and deal more generously with his subjects. Rehoboam refused and, instead, decided to increase the tax rates. His foolishness led to the division of the kingdom — a consequence that had been prophesied would come because of Solomon’s wickedness. Now, the covenant people were no longer one; they were two separate nations — Israel in the north and Judah in the south. The histories of these two nations are quite diverse, mainly because of the covenant made with King David. Because Judah contained the city of David, Jerusalem, the promise of the Davidic line rested in that nation. The northern kingdom experienced nothing of this stability or blessing. From the very beginning of the separate state of Israel, the nation plunged into idol worship. Not one of its kings came from the Davidic lineage. Only two dynasties ruled for more than two generations. At least half of her kings were murdered. Most of the monarchs served short reigns, with one on the throne for only seven days.
The history of the southern kingdom is not devoid of its failures, sins, and backsliding; but it does bear one amazing characteristic: twenty-two kings from the same family with over four centuries of unbroken leadership. Many times, the leadership was wicked and an abomination in the sight of the Lord, but it was still the house of David in power. Each time God said, “I’ve had enough,” He remembered His covenant with His friend David and held back judgment in favor of grace. Let’s take a quick overview of the reign of the Davidic dynasty.
There were several occasions when God was ready to bring total annihilation to the people and king of Judah, but His hand was stayed because of His vow to King David. Scripture records several of these instances. First Kings chapter eleven recounts the story of how Solomon’s wives turned his heart from the Lord and he began to worship the pagan gods that they had introduced into Israel. The anger of the Almighty was kindled against Solomon, and He proclaimed that the kingdom would be torn away from Solomon’s hand. “Yet,” God added, “for the sake of thy father David, I will not do it during your lifetime. And for the sake of My servant David, I will give one tribe to your son to continue your lineage.” (I Kings 11:12-13, 32-34) In the days of Abijam, God considered removing the lamp of the Davidic line from Jerusalem; again, because of His vow to David, God showed mercy and extended the house of His servant. (I Kings 15:4) When Jehoram brought the wicked Athaliah into the royal family, God considered total destruction of Judah; yet, His promise to King David again stayed His hand. (II Kings 8:19) When the Assyrian general Sennacherib surrounded the city of Jerusalem in the days of Hezekiah, it was, again, for the sake of David that God spared the city and the Judean king. (II Kings 19:34 and Isaiah 37:35) Hezekiah’s life was also extended because of God’s covenant with David. (II Kings 20:5-6)
Finally, the situation became so blatantly wicked that God did release His wrath upon King Jehoiachin (Coniah). God ultimately declared that no man of his seed would ever sit on the throne of his father David. (Jeremiah 22:28-30) Had God finally forsaken His promise to establish the house of David? No! Read on. Only five verses later, the prophet declares:
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. (Jeremiah 23:5)
The prophet Amos reaffirmed this promise when he spoke of the restoration of the tabernacle of David (Amos 9:11-12), a promise confirmed in the New Testament to be a prophecy of the coming of Jesus (Acts 15:16).
When we open the New Testament, we are immediately confronted with the title verse to the book of Matthew.
The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (verse 1:1)
Of course, it is obvious that the order of the New Testament would be that it should begin with the story of Jesus; however, I have always found it interesting that God chose Matthew to be in first place in the lineup of the gospels. Had I been in charge, I would have started with Mark that seems to be the oldest of the Jesus biographies. Most people would have chosen John since it seems to be the one most people relate to and is the one most new converts are directed to read first. However, God — in His infinite wisdom — saw to it that the first evangelist’s work in the roster was to be Matthew’s. Thus, the opening verse of Matthew’s gospel — and, therefore, the introductory verse to the whole of the New Testament — presents Jesus as the son of David and the son of Abraham. Notice the particular use of the articles in this sentence. Jesus is not a son of David or a son of Abraham. In both cases, it is specifically said that He is the son. The two great covenants of the Old Testament were both designated to a coming son. Now, the wait is over! Jesus has arrived as the final heir and recipient of both of these covenants. With this one passage, the final fulfillment of all of the Old Testament has come to into focus. And God specifically engineered the New Testament so that this climactic verse would strategically be the opening passage of the New Testament.
The fulfillment of all that God spoke to King David culminated in the person of Jesus. However, the finalization of these promises will only be manifest in the Lord’s return at the Second Coming. At that point, the re-establishment of Jerusalem and the temple will mean the re-establishment of the house of David.
The LORD also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah. In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, and the angel of the LORD before them. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart. In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. (Zechariah 12:7-14, 13:1)
Finally, we see the fulfillment of Nathan’s words to King David — there will be a temple in Jerusalem and there will be an everlasting kingdom of David’s seed ruling from the city of David. The following chapter of Zechariah’s prophecy describes the utter defeat of a global move to challenge the Jerusalem-based kingdom and the ensuing universal rule of the Davidic king. But to truly understand the covenant concerning the establishment of the house of David, we must also understand the house he was not allowed to establish — the temple.
With the same breath in which God established David’s household, He also made another promise that became the perpetual desire and longing of the covenant people — that there would be a temple to God in Jerusalem. David desired to build a temple on the sacred mountain, but was forbidden by the prophet Nathan.
Thus says the Lord, Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt 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 and a tabernacle. In all the places that I went 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?…Moreover the Lord declares to you that thy Lord will make you a house. (II Samuel 7:5-7)
Here the stress seems to be on the fact that the political unity — the house of David — should be secured before the temple was built. After David’s reign, his son Solomon did establish a temple in Jerusalem. But we must not overlook the significance of David’s role in making the temple a reality.
And David said, Solomon my son is young and tender, and the house that is to be builded for the LORD must be exceeding magnifical, of fame and of glory throughout all countries: I will therefore now make preparation for it. So David prepared abundantly before his death. Then he called for Solomon his son, and charged him to build an house for the LORD God of Israel. And David said to Solomon, My son, as for me, it was in my mind to build an house unto the name of the LORD my God: But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight. (II Chronicles 22:5-8)
When David spoke to Solomon about building the temple in Jerusalem, he explained that he could not build the sanctuary himself because of the blood that was on his hands. The wording he used seemed to indicate that the issue at hand had to do with the many wars that David had fought during his reign. In fact, this is exactly how Solomon understood the conversation. We can see this from the explanation he gave to King Hiram when he asked his assistance in supplying materials for the construction of the temple.
And Solomon sent to Hiram, saying, Thou knowest how that David my father could not build an house unto the name of the LORD his God for the wars which were about him on every side, until the LORD put them under the soles of his feet. But now the LORD my God hath given me rest on every side, so that there is neither adversary nor evil occurrent. (I Kings 5:2-4)
However, the true blood that was on David’s hands was that of Uriah. Because of this blood, God never allowed David to be at peace, resulting in his not being able to build the temple.
Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. (II Samuel 12:10)
In order to grasp the significance of the paradox demonstrated here, we need to consider one of the perplexing questions concerning the personality of David. When we read the psalms, we see a picture of an ecstatic worshipper; yet, when we read the historical books, we get a very different picture of a bloodthirsty warrior. As a preface to the explanation of the seeming dichotomy in David’s life, let me first make reference to one of today’s leading theologians who has said that missions exist because worship does not. The premise of his statement is that, when we get a glimpse into the throne room of heaven in the book of Revelation, we see that the activity of heaven is worship. Life in heaven is not centered around all the activities we know here on earth; rather, it seems to be solely focused on worship. The twenty-four elders, all of the heavenly hosts, and all the redeemed from every segment of the human family are continually before the throne, adoring God and the Lamb and proclaiming their great deeds. Since not every human has been given the chance to choose to join in this eschatological chorus, human activity must be first directed to recruiting choir members — thus, missions or whatever other activity we are involved in! Until we understand this principle, David will remain one of the biggest conundrums in the Bible. He seems like a schizophrenic with his psalms filled with beautiful, poetic adorations to God while the narrative of his life is violent slaughter and conquest. The two sides of this great figure seem almost irreconcilable. Even in the midst of his melodic compositions, we occasionally find a gory rant against his enemies. How can all these radically different pieces fit together logically? The answer is in the centrality of worship. Actually, David was worship leader first and king and warrior second. His battles were to eliminate the worship of false gods, and his government was to establish a people under a theocratic society that put worship in preeminence. All the wealth he accumulated through taxation of the people, his entrepreneurism, and the conquests of pagan lands was dedicated to the funding of the temple that his son would eventually build as a monument to worship. In other words, his life was centered around worshipping God — and one of the main focuses in that worship was the erection of the temple. Every other activity, no matter how foreign it might seem, was in one way or another to culminate in worship, especially temple worship.
The prophets and historians alike testify to the role exuberant worship played in David’s physical life and in the eschatological reestablishment of his lineage and kingdom.
And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. (Acts 15:15-17 referring to Amos 9)
The reference to the tabernacle of David speaks of a special tent that the king constructed in Jerusalem to house the Ark of the Covenant when he brought it back after the Philistines had captured it. (II Samuel 6:17) David’s tabernacle was different from both the tabernacle of Moses and the temple of Solomon in that it did not have the thick curtain of the Holy of Holies surrounding the ark to keep it out of sight and out of reach. In both the former and latter situations, only the High Priest could approach the ark — and that was only once a year under very exacting conditions. In David’s tent, the ark was visible and accessible to all. When the ark was placed in this tabernacle, David danced with all his might and celebrated so extravagantly that his wife was embarrassed. Undeterred by her criticism, David declared that he could continue and even intensify his worship. (II Samuel 6:12-22) One significant fact about the arrangement that David made concerning this tabernacle was that there was continuous worship in the presence of the ark. (I Chronicles 16:37-40) This worship was of staggering proportions with some four thousand worshippers regularly serving before the tabernacle. (I Chronicles 23:5) To get a perspective, we need to realize that the forty largest orchestras in the world today employ only about three thousand five hundred musicians — still several hundred short of the number employed for this singular praise ensemble! After all, David did say that it was with music that he entered into the very presence of the Lord. (Psalm 100:2) It is likely that the repetitive nature of music reaffirms the truths of the lyrics by the same principle that meditation solidifies the truths of the scriptures as we repeat and recite them. Praise and worship music seems to actually be spiritual in its very nature. In fact, the very origin of music is described as having been incorporated in Lucifer, who was at that time the anointed cherub who covered the very presence of God. (Ezekiel 28:13) Thus we see music closely associated with the intimate presence of the Lord. On a side note, it seems that when Lucifer became the devil he perverted the quality of music and turned it into an instrument to bring his servants into closeness with him. Music — both sacred and diabolical — gets into the human spirit and also sets the atmosphere — either for the Holy Spirit or demonic spirits. We see this principle demonstrated in the fact that David was able to calm the evil spirit that was in Saul when he played his harp. (I Samuel 16:23)
One of David’s major accomplishments as king of Israel was to turn the former Jebusite city of Jerusalem into the focal point of Jewish life. Under his direction, the city became the center of the military, the politics, the culture, the education, the administration, the economy, and most of all the religion of the nation. Although Solomon would be the one to build the temple and import so much wealth that the city would be coined “Jerusalem of gold,” David made the city to prosper in every physical dimension and established it as the focal point of spiritual life. The denial of his desire to build the temple illuminates another aspect of David’s true leadership character. The test of real leadership is whether we are willing to do all the work and let our followers get all the credit. David drew up all the blueprints for the temple and worked hard to raise all the money to build it — all the while knowing that the temple would forever be remembered as Solomon’s Temple! Somewhere along the line during this process of preparing for a temple that he would never set foot into, David wrote, “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD.’” (Psalm 122:1) In this verse, he was celebrating the fact that his followers had become leaders because they had caught what their leader had taught. His leadership had come to fruition as they had gotten hold of his spirit and his spirit had gotten hold of them! True leaders rejoice when they no longer must lead but know that their vision is guaranteed through their followers.
The writings of David show how significantly the temple figured into his spiritual mentality. It is often easy to read biblical passages with certain images in our heads and not take the time to consider if those mental pictures are accurate. For example, many of us have a misconception that has somehow slipped into our imagination of King David standing, kneeling, or even whirling about in exuberant worship inside the courts of the temple. After all, he mentions the sanctuary fourteen times (verses 20:2, 63:2, 68:24, 73:17, 74:3, 74:7, 77:13, 78:54, 78:69, 96:6, 102:19, 114:2, 134:2, 150:1) and the temple ten times (verses 5:7, 11:4, 18:6, 27:4, 29:9, 48:9, 65:4, 68:29, 79:1, 138:2). However, it may take a genuine reality check to place these psalms in their proper chronological context — the period before the temple was even built! How is it that David could write so explicitly and so eloquently describe his emotions as he worshipped in a temple that didn’t even exist? The answer is simple — he was there in the spirit. He had entered into the faith realm to the point that he was experiencing the yet-to-be-built temple as genuinely as if he were in the actual building. He was experiencing the sanctuary prophetically in preparation for the fulfillment of the vision. Andrew Wommack described his experience of walking through the unfinished building of his headquarters when it was nothing more than an empty shell. As he walked through the open cavern, he imagined every wall and door that was yet to be built as he cautiously avoided walking through the “solid” walls and was careful to turn the handle on each door as he went through it. He said that he was actually less excited when he walked into the finished building that when he “experienced” it by faith.
One thing have I desired of the Lord, that I will seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple. (Psalms 27:4)
One really perplexing statement that David penned about the temple is found in Psalm 74:7-8.
They have cast fire into thy sanctuary, they have defiled by casting down the dwelling place of thy name to the ground. They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land.
These verses can be very perplexing at first glance because they refer to things that didn’t even exist in the time of David. Verse seven talks about the burning of the sanctuary, an apparent reference to the Babylonian destruction of the First Temple followed centuries later by the razing of the Second Temple by the Romans — which incidentally occurred on the same calendar date, the Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av. Verse eight refers to synagogues, which grew out of the period of the Babylonian Exile. The reference to the synagogues is easily explained in that the actual Hebrew term used here is a word that simply means “appointed.” David was referring to any place that was appointed as a place of worship. It could have been as simple as a family altar in a home or as well established as a national site such as Gibeon where Solomon worshiped before the construction of the temple or at the tabernacle where David housed the Ark of the Covenant. The destruction of the temple referred to in verse seven must be seen in light of the prophetic gift that resided in the Psalmist. Even though David could see into the future and understand the temple he was drawing the blueprints for and raising funds for would wind up in ashes, he knew that he had to follow through with preparing for its construction. In our own lives, we can learn a simple lesson from this passage: do it anyway. Even though some of our efforts may face challenges and possible defeat, we can’t just sit idle and do nothing.
Although the Bible is full of teaching concerning the prophetic importance of the temple to covenant life, allow me to conclude our discussion with what is likely the most foundational passage — the dedication prayer uttered by Solomon when the first temple was inaugurated. Notice how the influence of David permeates the significance of the temple and its prophetic role.
And Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven: And he said, LORD God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart: Who hast kept with thy servant David my father that thou promisedst him: thou spakest also with thy mouth, and hast fulfilled it with thine hand, as it is this day. Therefore now, LORD God of Israel, keep with thy servant David my father that thou promisedst him, saying There shall not fail thee a man in my sight to sit on the throne of Israel; so that thy children take heed to their way, that they walk before me as thou hast walked before me. And now, O God of Israel, let thy word, I pray thee, be verified, which thou spakest unto thy servant David my father. But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded? Yet have thou respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to hearken unto the cry and to the prayer, which thy servant prayeth before thee today. (I Kings 8:22-28)