Containing God: Lessons from King David’s House

Rev. Bradley Swire   -  

As life progresses and families grow, it’s inevitable that we accumulate more “stuff.” I’ve experienced this firsthand. I began with just a room at my parents’ house, moved to a one-bedroom apartment, then a two-bedroom house, and eventually to a larger four-bedroom home to accommodate my growing family and our ever-increasing belongings. This expansion of living space seems natural as our needs evolve, and I’m sure many of you can relate.

King David experienced a similar progression. He started as a shepherd boy, living humbly in his father’s house, then rose to a beloved warrior and prince, and finally, he became king, residing in a luxurious palace of cedar. In our scripture from 2 Samuel 7:1-16, David, now comfortable in his grand palace, desires to build a permanent house for God. He looks around at his lavish surroundings and feels compelled to create something equally grand for the Ark of the Covenant, which at that time was housed in a simple tent.

David’s intentions were noble, and even Nathan, his spiritual advisor, initially supported the idea. However, that night, God spoke to Nathan with a different plan: “Tell David, ‘No! You are not the one to build me a house.’” God reminded David that He had always been on the move with His people, dwelling in a tent and journeying with them. The idea of confining God to a static building was not in line with His nature or His plans.

This reminds me of a time when I thought I had everything figured out. After taking my EMT exam, I was sure I had passed with flying colors. Yet, when the results came back, I was shocked to see that I had failed. It wasn’t me who was rejected; it was my approach to the test. Similarly, God wasn’t rejecting David but was redirecting him to a higher purpose. God didn’t want to be confined to a building; He wanted to be present and active in the lives of His people.

God’s response to David was clear: “I have been with you wherever you went, and I will make a dynasty for you.” God promised David a lasting legacy, a house not built of cedar but of an unbreakable connection to Him. This promise was fulfilled through David’s lineage, ultimately leading to Jesus Christ, who embodied God’s presence on earth and whose spirit continues to dwell within us through the Holy Spirit.

So why do we, like David, sometimes try to contain God? We might not build physical structures to house Him, but we often confine Him within the walls of our churches or limit His presence to certain times and places in our lives. God challenges us to break free from these constraints and recognize that He is a God on the move, active in the world and within us.

God’s grace, demonstrated through Jesus, calls us to go beyond our comfort zones and bring His presence to others. Jesus didn’t stay confined; He walked among people, shared their lives, and demonstrated God’s love in action. And after His resurrection, He sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to do the same.

Imagine what our church could achieve if we embraced this mission. Instead of keeping God isolated within the walls of our building, what if we moved with Him into our communities, our workplaces, and our everyday lives? What kind of impact could we make if we allowed God’s uncontainable spirit to guide us in creating a dynasty of faith, love, and service?

The lesson from David’s desire to build a house for God is a reminder that our lives and our faith should be dynamic, ever-growing, and reaching out. Let’s not try to contain God, but rather, let’s join Him in His work, moving wherever He leads us. Together, we can build a legacy that reflects the boundless grace and presence of God in the world.