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19 September. 1 Chronicles chapters 16-17
Most of this passage is taken up with David’s psalm of praise at the dedication of the tent of the Ark; most of the text of it appears elsewhere as Psalms 96 and 105. See my commentary for 15 & 16 July.
The remainder is about how David first thought, and the prophet Nathan confirmed his thinking, that it would be right to build a “house for God” no less splendid than his own. That may appear sensible – for to put one’s own needs before the will of God is to break the first commandment (to worship nothing other than God). But God revealed to Nathan that this was in fact a sinful strategy, for to regard a fixed location for worship as “God’s house” is to start down the road of idolatry, thus breaking the second commandment (not to have any image of God).
A temple or church that is seen as the “exclusive” location of the divine becomes a focus of worship in itself. But true worship of God is always outward-looking: it has been said (by the theologian David Bosch among others) that mission is not primarily an activity of the church, but an activity of God undertaken through the church. As soon as we take our thinking away from God and what God’s mission might be, and start focussing on “the church” (building), or the objects in the church that might represent God, we lose sight of the purpose of the Church (body of God’s people).
It was not that there was never to be a “house of God” in Jerusalem. In the following verses God tells David that his son (Solomon, though not named here) would indeed build it. But it would have been wrong for David to do so, for God’s purpose for David was to strengthen the identity of the nation of Israel and their worship. For that, they needed to have an understanding that God was everywhere among them and not restricted to the Temple or the Holy City (as other near eastern cultures would have believed).