The Rest That Remaineth: 2 Samuel 7

2 Samuel 7  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 8
It is a natural thing for the heart of man to seek present rest; it is a snare even to the saint in one form or another. And happy are they who, by the power of the Spirit of God., are able to detect and watch against it. But it often comes in a very subtle guise, and takes the shape of piety itself. Where it is not connected with anything that seems of the world or self, as with one's family, and the like, it may be to seek present rest for what bears the name of Christ upon the earth. Now, it was particularly this that was at work in David's heart. For he was a blessed man of God, and earnestly desired that God Himself should have a house worthy of His name in the midst of Israel. It was unnatural to his mind, it did not seem right, that he should be so favored of God, and that God Himself should have only a tent to dwell in. But this chapter brings out that the portion of faith is the best portion of all. Whatever might be the harvest of joy in circumstances; whatever even the power of God appearing for His people, putting down every obstacle, and creating a scene glorious and bright here below, yet, for all that, the portion of faith in patience is better still.
Now, this is a most wonderful truth for our souls to learn. Because, no doubt, nature would greatly prefer the place of Solomon to that of David. But David's lot was, morally, far superior. Outwardly, Solomon had everything that the human heart could wish, and it came from God, who Himself was crowning Solomon with every natural blessing. What was the issue? There are very weighty things for our souls to take heed to in this, because we all know what it is to have some exercise of heart about that which is precious to God. It may work in many ways, so as, perhaps, to trouble our hearts, and damage our confidence in the Lord; or it may weaken our affections towards the people of God, in whose ways there is, doubtless, much that is trying and sad. But this is not the question. These are things that the enemy of souls has always sought to stir up against the name of the Lord. We have to consider, not only what is His side in each question, but what is the temper of soul that He would have cultivated in us, in respect to the evil that we see around, and that we cannot set aside. It is of the greatest importance, because, in one or other form, you will find the same feeling at work among saints now as there was in David—the desire for God's rest before the time. And it is striking to see that Nathan was not able to judge it. He thought it was perfectly good. He was a prophet of God, yet he did not understand. It is only God Himself who can give the happy conviction that the portion of faith is the best of all; and this must now, in Christ's absence, find itself in the midst of evil, which it abhors. Nothing would be easier for God than to set everything right at once by His power; to put an end to all that disturbs and causes sorrow. But He does not, because He has something better in store for us. There will be judgment, no doubt—God's sentence executed on everything that is contrary to Him; and then there will be a bright time for the earth as well as for the heavens. But we have to remember that the heart of the saint should enjoy a far better portion now, by faith, than even if the days of heaven upon the earth were come. For those days will not be so bright as that inner, higher, light which is in heaven, in the presence of God Himself. And it is the drawing out of the tender love, the restoring mercy, the long-suffering goodness of God, through all this time of weakness and need, that brings out the depths of His character—His grace.
And faith has to learn, in the midst of a scene of contradiction and difficulty, and apparent frustration, too, of all that our hearts desire for the Lord's sake, not to doubt God, but to be sure that everything is in His hand, and working onward, strange as it may seem, for the glory of His Son. Many of these things cause the utter crushing of all that is dear to the heart. Everything that pertains to man, or that springs from him, is withered up by this word of the Lord that alone abideth. But God exalts Himself, blessed and blessing, above all, forever.
So David had to learn on this occasion. In one sense it was a very pious thought of his, and not unworthy even of a godly spirit. He felt rebuked at his own dwelling in a house of cedar, and where was God to be? But God must give us what is worthy of Himself if our hearts desire Him. And He knew David, the man after His own heart, and gave him accordingly. It might be by no means that which we should choose, but what God chooses for us. When Nathan had told David, “Go and do all that is in thine heart, for the Lord is with thee,” that very night the Lord comes in, saying, “Go and tell my servant David, Thus saith the Lord, shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in?” Then, in the most touching way, He shows how He has been a pilgrim Himself, how He had wandered about from one place to another. “I have not dwelt in any house since the time that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, even to this day, but have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle. In all the places wherein I have walked with all the children of Israel, spake I a word with any of the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to feed my people Israel, saying, Why build ye not me a house of cedar?” He never sought a place of rest then. “Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I took thee from the sheep-cote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel.” And further on: “Also the Lord telleth thee, that he will make thee an house.” The Lord always must take the place of the better. He would not allow such a thought as that David should be building the Lord a house. He must build a house for David, and better far than anything that Solomon could raise.
Thus, not in word only, but in deed and in truth, did David learn the deep feeling and love of God towards him. There was, also, no doubt, the circumstance that he was not a suitable person to build the house of God, because he was a man of blood. But grace ever comes in and triumphs. It was not so much to hinder David from doing good that the Lord thus dealt, as for the purpose of giving him something better. Wherever the heart is towards God, and the desire is for what is according to His mind, if He takes away any thought of ours, it is always to accomplish a higher counsel of His own. And so it was on this occasion. The Lord brings out before David the divine future of His house. David goes in and sits “before the Lord;” and a more beautiful and touching rising up of David to the thoughts of God never was seen before in all his history. “He said, Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?” All that the Lord had hitherto done! and was it a little thing? “And this was yet a small thing in thy sight, O Lord God; but thou hast spoken of thy servant's house for a great while to come” —yea, it was for evermore. “And is this the manner of man, O Lord God?” It was the manner of God.
As bearing upon our souls and what is before us, is not this full of instruction? We might desire a reign of the gospel, and union among all saints; and it would be a great comfort to us in one way, supposing everything were going on in the Church, if not in the world, as we might value and find rest in. Assuredly we ought to feel every departure, and judge, specially in ourselves, wherever we fail, not only in our personal walk, but also in grace and wisdom to meet the difficulties around us. Certainly we ought to feel for and groan with the Church of God.
But while all this is true, have we not to remember that the heart which desires present establishment, would be too glad to hear that, if not all the church, at least the part we have to do with was going on prosperously? But what would be the consequence? We should forget the present lone state of the church altogether. So narrow are we that we should cease to mourn. If David had had that beautiful house to build and adorn, would he have realized as he did how such a God was dishonored in Israel and all over the earth? Whenever things go on according to our desires and feelings in the little circle that surrounds us, we are apt to think that it is all well. We ought to be thankful for it; but if we are in any way resting there, it shows that we fall short of His mind, who never fails to look onward to the full glory of Christ. On the other hand, the heart often wastes itself in querulousness about things around us, and is thus taken away both from the truth and from the hope, our thoughts and exercises being more about others than Christ. The effect of having Him before us more simply is, that we are able to meet the case of others more fully and deeply. Thus everything will be thoroughly and holily judged; but it will be in a spirit of intercession, because it is along with Christ.
The Lord takes a far deeper and fuller judgment of evil than any of us. But how does He act towards His beloved ones What God would give us, is the portion of faith while things are trying; that so, spite of the sense of all present contrariety, our comfort may be in God—not our rest yet, for that will be entirely heavenly, when the Lord will come and take us to be with Himself in glory. But even now, the place into which the knowledge of this would bring us, is one of quiet, and peaceful, and humble waiting upon God. Had David ever such lowly thoughts of himself as when the Lord had thus spoken, and he sat before Him? Had he known before how precious he was to God? Never. Instead of having our best affections undermined by constant suspicion and anxiety, if we understand God's thoughts and desires, we shall know deeper lowliness, but more simplicity and confidence in God in our souls. And all this comes from a fuller acquaintance with Christ.