Nathan told him to go ahead and do what was in his heart. Nathan spoke too soon.
4 But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, 5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. 7 In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’
God didn't want or need a fancy house. He didn't ask any of the leaders to build one. The Creator and Owner of the entire universe needs nothing from mere man. He told Nathan to remind David that He took him from the pasture and made him a prince, and that He had been with him wherever he went, cutting off his enemies before him. He was reminding David that it was only through His power that David prospered. The Lord God went on and promised...
And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”
I will make your name great, David. I will plant my people firmly in one place. I will give you rest from your enemies. I will make YOU a house. I will establish the kingdom of your offspring, and he will build a house for my name. I will discipline him. Your throne shall be established forever.
What promises! Instead of David doing something for God (which really is impossible), God turns around and makes all these glorious promises to David.
This gives David courage. Go and read David's prayer in 2 Samuel 7:18-29. It's a beautiful prayer, giving praise to a Beautiful God. The prayer ends with these words:
27 For you, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. 28 And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. 29 Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you. For you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.”
David has the courage to ask God for His blessing on his house, simply because he is praying God's promises back to him.
What a wonderful way to pray! It really is the only way to pray. When we ask God for something, we have courage to do so because He has already promised He would do so.
Do you need strength? I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness. Ask God for strength. He promised He would give it.
Do you need wisdom? If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally, without finding fault. Ask God for wisdom. He promised He would give it.
Do you need clothing? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Ask God for clothing. He promised He would give it.
God always, always keeps His promises. Sometimes, however, He works in mysterious ways. Sometimes, from our perspective, it looks as if He is not keeping His promises.
Consider Jeremiah. Zedekiah the king is worried, because the armies of Babylon are arrayed against him. He sends messengers to Jeremiah.
2 “Inquire of the Lord for us, for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is making war against us. Perhaps the Lord will deal with us according to all his wonderful deeds and will make him withdraw from us.”
It sounds like Zedekiah is praising God and relying on Him to do battle for His people. But listen to what the Lord says:
‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands and with which you are fighting against the king of Babylon and against the Chaldeans who are besieging you outside the walls. And I will bring them together into the midst of this city. 5 I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and strong arm, in anger and in fury and in great wrath. 6 And I will strike down the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast. They shall die of a great pestilence. 7 Afterward, declares the Lord, I will give Zedekiah king of Judah and his servants and the people in this city who survive the pestilence, sword, and famine into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and into the hand of their enemies, into the hand of those who seek their lives. He shall strike them down with the edge of the sword. He shall not pity them or spare them or have compassion.'
Does this sound like God is protecting His people? Does this sound like peace from their enemies? On the contrary, God is saying that He Himself will fight against His own people in anger and in fury and in great wrath.
Because He is punishing His people according to the fruit of their deeds - idolatry, oppression, infidelity to the covenant.
In 588 BC Nebuchadnezzar overthrew the city of Jerusalem and carried off many captives. All was lost, it seemed. God had turned His back on His people.
Or, had He?
8 “And to this people you shall say: ‘Thus says the Lord: Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. 9 He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who are besieging you shall live and shall have his life as a prize of war. 10 For I have set my face against this city for harm and not for good, declares the Lord: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.’
God gave them a way out. All they had to do was surrender. He told them to go and live in captivity, to plant gardens and settle down. He had a plan. One day, He would bring them back. Just read the book of Nehemiah for more of the story. You know that David's throne has been established forever - Jesus is on the throne, ruling in great power and great glory.
So, this is my point: God always keeps His promises. He alone is omniscient; He alone knows what He is doing.
Take courage and pray His promises back to Him. Believe that He will always do what He says He will do. Trust Him. And when things look bleak and you begin to wonder if the Lord our God is really answering your prayers, remember things aren't always as they seem.
He makes all things beautiful in His time.