2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
Twice I have had the privilege of dining in a Bedouin tent in a Middle Eastern desert. For one meal it is an adventure and an experience. Beyond that …
The tent is patched animal skins. The constant unrelenting winds have torn holes and created gaps in the fabric. The skins are dirty and worn, rough to the touch. But they are not as rough as the coarse and irregular wooden poles that leave small splinters in your hand should you grab one too tightly. Rugs cover the sandy ground but you can still feel the bumps and the rocks underfoot. The uneven surface makes even sitting a bit precarious. The skins flap in the wind and sand seeps in through every gap and opening. It is in your eyes and your mouth. It covers the table and the food leaving a gritty residue in the bottom of the coffee cup. The tent keeps out the blazing sun but holds in the sweltering heat. At night there is very little between you and the wilderness outside. The snakes and scorpions have no difficulty entering beneath the flaps.
Really now, who in their right mind would want to live in one of these tents? King David is comfortably ensconced in a home and appreciates how nice it is. But then he realizes that God is still living in a tent. God still has no structural home- no place to reside- no residence in which to dwell. David considers building a house for God.
But God quickly informs Nathan that David is not to build a house for God. God has done just fine wandering around the desert. God has managed quite nicely moving on a whim, pulling up stakes and heading off in a new direction. God actually cherishes the ability to show up just about anywhere at any time even when not expected. God has no desire to be enshrined or confined in some cedar cabin or even a stone cathedral. God likes to surprise us.
Seems like most of us would rather put God in a house of our own design. We want God in a box, a God who is controlled and contained, a God unable to just show up and surprise us. If God is ok with living in a tent that means our values and God’s values may not be the same. If God can move us in new directions that means what we know now as absolute truth may in fact change. If God is free to move around that means we may not know where we will be going next in our lives or even in our faith.
God says, “I don’t need a house.” But God also says, “Relax, I have been with you everywhere you’ve gone so far and I will remain with you forever in ways and in places you can’t yet imagine.”