If anyone in Ancient Israel was qualified to build the Temple, it was King David.
He was a man who started in humble beginnings, as a shepherd, and was exalted to the position of King by God. He was the man who lead the armies of Israel against the likes of the Philistines, Moabites, and Jebusites. He was the man who lead Israel’s rise to power in the Middle East. He was a man of art who played the harp. He organized the musicians to play psalms. If there was ever a renaissance man of Ancient Israel, David was it.
It only makes sense that he should have been the one to build the Temple, as some sort of divine reward for his faithfulness to God. At least, that makes sense in our minds. We do something for God; God does something for us.
But, God said no.
Ultimately, God blessed David by sending Jesus through his line–a fulfillment of the covenant stating that there would be a Davidic descendant on the throne forever–but God said no to the instant gratification.
Why? God said it was because David was a man of war and he had shed blood. To get the kingdom of Israel where it was, of course some blood had to be spilt. The borders of Israel had to be established and the invading armies repelled. This was not something David did wrong. In fact, he did exactly what God wanted him to do. But, this did not prevent David from having some sort of stake in the building of the Temple. He gathered all the supplies his son, Solomon, would need to build God’s house. He gathered bronze, gold, silver, and stone of unbelievable proportions for the day that Solomon would begin building. David wanted to be a part no matter what it took.
But, God still chose Solomon to build His house over David. And the natural question that comes with that is why? Solomon did nothing but inherit a kingdom that was beginning to thrive amidst a time of peace the nation had not experienced before. But, if you think about it and look at the whole of Scripture, the move God makes actually makes perfect sense on multiple levels.
First, God rarely does anything that makes sense to the rational, reasonable mind of man. Look forward to the Sermon on the Mount. Many of Jesus’ statements are counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. They do not make sense to the human mind. Turn the other cheek? Blessed are the meek? Looking at a women with lust is adultery? These were all ideas that were hard to grasp, much less put into practice. God has a way of doing things His way, and we are arrogant enough sometimes to shake our little fists at the heavens demanding an explanation for why God did what He did. The reality is, even if He did tell us, we would be more confused on the other end of the explanation than with our limited understanding on the front end. God does things the way He does them because…well, He’s God.
Second, Solomon is a symbol of Jesus. David was a man of war who established the nation of Israel. He was known for his conquests and campaigns. Blood was on his hands. If he had built the Temple there would have been an undertone that God’s house was established out of war and death, and, somehow, man had the ability to clean up the land for God to live there. It would have been built on the idea that man could do something good for God, when the truth is actually the opposite: man can do nothing good for God. During the exile, the visions the people would of had as their savior would have been images of a warrior riding in to save the day, defeat all their enemies by the sword, and reestablish Israel’s golden-age. In fact, this was some of the ideology that was floating around the time Jesus was born. Israel was looking for a king to ride in, topple the Roman Empire, and save the Jewish people. But, as we have seen before, God had different plans. Jesus came to bring peace, proclaim freedom, and save Israel but not in the way the Jewish people imagined. They did not understand that their war was not an external struggle against the Roman Empire; it was an internal struggle with sin. If Jesus had ridden into Jerusalem in full battle armor on a white stallion, of course the people would have seen Him as the Messiah, son of David, but He chose to ride in on a donkey clothed in humility and peace, like Solomon.
Under Solomon’s reign, Israel experienced the height of their civilization. Wisdom and wealth were beyond compare. The Temple was a magnificent sight other rulers would come to marvel at. War was an afterthought. Life was good.
Under Jesus’ reign, Christians experience the height of what it means to a child of God. Eternal life is beyond compare. The glory of God is a sight no one has yet to marvel at the fullness of. Death is an afterthought. Life is as it should be.
Although David was a man after God’s own heart, God chose Solomon to be the builder of the Temple because he best represented what the future Savior of the world would embody: a restoration of God’s people and a peace that births joy, hope, and love for God.
To be fair, Jesus was the Son of David who defeated sin and death, but He did not come to bear the sword the first time. That is reserved for the second.
But until then, may you walk in peace knowing through His life and death, Jesus made ultimate peace between you and God. Remember that your are no longer enemies of God but rather friends. Your borders are safe; your salvation is secure. Enjoy the kingdom and give praise to the King who reigns on its throne.