David Gets His Dream House

Monday, August 5, 2013 — Week of Proper 13, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 978)

Psalms 80 (morning) // 77, [79] (evening)

2 Samuel 7:1-17

Acts 18:1-11

Mark 8:11-21

In today’s first reading, we see King David achieve an ancient Israelite version of the American Dream. He has risen from humble origins, fought for his country against the Philistines, and earned his throne through merit, not entitlement. And so today, David gets his dream house. The materials (precious cedar) and the labor (carpenters and masons) were gifts from the King of Tyre, who probably wanted David to get comfortable and abandon his ambitious plans for expanding his territory. But this dream house is more dangerous to David than the King of Tyre intended.

This house of cedar distracts David from what God wants most: to dwell with David and his people not in one fixed place, but wherever they go. David assumes that God would much prefer to live in a nice, comfortable house than in a tent, where the ark of the covenant has been staying. David intends to build him a permanent home, and Nathan instinctively endorses this plan.

But Nathan speaks too soon when he says, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.” What David has “in mind” are his own dreams and plans. Nathan assures David that his plans are good when he says, “the Lord is with you.” Yet David’s plans deprive the Lord of the very ways he wants to be present to David.

Later that night, the Lord comes to Nathan with a message for David. The Lord wants David to remember, “I have been with you wherever you went,” from a pasture full of sheep to a seat of power. The Lord wants David to trust that he will plant his people in a place of peace and rest from their enemies. And finally, the Lord wants to be the one to build David a “house”—an everlasting kingdom—and not the other way around.

How have we been tempted to put the American Dream House ahead of God’s desire to give us a kingdom? For generations, many Americans have accepted what seem like gifts from the King of Tyre: comfortable and spacious homes in ever-sprawling subdivisions. Yet, along with these patterns of housing development, we have also accepted racial and economic segregation and discrimination by neighborhood. And we have accepted the destructive impact of commuting in private vehicles and of heating and cooling buildings that just a few people share. Like David and Nathan, we accept these gifts automatically, get comfortable, and assume that the Lord is with us.

But maybe God wants something different, something more. What God wants might not be to have his own house, but to shape the way we live and move. To give us a kingdom. To meet us where we are, and to reveal himself to us in the form of strangers who become neighbors. Consider today how God’s desire to dwell with us, and the kingdom he wants to give us, can shape our choice of where to live, how to travel, and whom to claim as our neighbors. We might discover God pitching his tent right alongside us.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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