“I Will Build Thee an House”

Sometimes we need to be reminded just how unequal our relationship with God is.

King Benjamin taught that if we serve God with all of our souls for the rest of our lives, we would still be “unprofitable servants.” God has already given us far more than we could ever hope to repay, and the gap continues to widen as He blesses us every day. Anything we do for Him is a symbolic gesture at best, a demonstration of our love for Him but insignificant compared with His gifts to us. (See Mosiah 2:20-25.)

In a brief period of peace during King David’s reign, he had a generous thought: I could build a house for God. Years earlier, as the children of Israel traveled in the wilderness, God had specified in detail how they should build him a moveable house called the tabernacle. (See Exodus 25-31.) But now the children of Israel had been in the promised land for centuries, and they had not built Him a more permanent home. The ark of the covenant, where God had promised to appear to His prophet, had been on the move, from Gibeah to the house of Obed-edom, and finally to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6). It seemed to David that God deserved something more stable.

David approached the prophet Nathan with his proposal: “See now, I dwell in an house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains.” Before David gave any more details, Nathan responded, “Go, do all that is in thine heart; for the Lord is with thee” (2 Samuel 7:2-3, 1 Chronicles 17:1-2).

But God had a different answer for David, and in the quiet of the night, Nathan received a revelation on David’s behalf in which the Lord said:

  1. I didn’t ask you to build me a house (2 Samuel 7:5-7, 1 Chronicles 17:4-6).
  2. You didn’t build your house—I did. “I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people” (2 Samuel 7:8-11, 1 Chronicles 17:7-10).
  3. Your son will build a house for me (2 Samuel 7:12-14, 1 Chronicles 17:11-12).
  4. I will establish your house and your kingdom forever (2 Samuel 7:15-17, 1 Chronicles 17:13-14).

There were doubtless multiple reasons why David wasn’t allowed to build a temple. His son Solomon identified a logistical one: Because David was at war for most of his reign, he may simply not have had the bandwidth to focus on such a large project. (See 1 Kings 5:3-5.) But far more significant to David than the Lord’s rejection of his offer was the Lord’s corresponding promise: “I will build thee an house” (2 Samuel 7:27, italics added; see also 2 Samuel 7:11, 1 Chronicles 17:10, 25).

Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions…. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). On the American continent, He told his followers that He had “prepared a house for man…among the mansions of [His] father, in which man might have a more excellent hope” (Ether 12:32). God is building our eternal home, and it is far grander than anything we could possibly build for Him.

After Solomon built the temple, he shared with the people something else God had told his father: “Whereas it was in thine heart to build an house unto my name, thou didst well that it was in thine heart” (1 Kings 8:18, 2 Chronicles 6:8). Even though David would not have the privilege of building the temple, God acknowledged and appreciated David’s unfulfilled desire.

Today, I will be grateful for the house God is building for me. As I strive to contribute to His work, I will remember that anything I can do for Him is immaterial compared with what He does for me. He does not need my gifts, but He nevertheless appreciates them as an expression of my love for Him.

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