Once King David is well settled in his new cedar palace in Jerusalem, he starts to think maybe he should build a house for the ark of God, which had been carted around for years and set up in a tent. David proposes his idea to the prophet Nathan, who at first approves. But God speaks to Nathan and dismisses the idea that God needs a house, a building to dwell in.
God declares that he is much more interested in building up the family of David into a great people. The Lord declares that “the Lord will make you a house,” that is, a community of God’s people – the “House of David.”
Then we meet up with Jesus and his disciples, who have been out “in the field” doing ministry of teaching and healing. They gather with stories to tell, and Jesus suggests they go off on a little retreat to reflect on their experiences. But the crowds followed them to the other side of the lake – they could find no peace. So Jesus continues to touch and heal all those who were brought to him.
Jesus’ primary concern is clearly with the people around him. Jesus had a very ambivalent response to the Temple, the great building in Jerusalem where the religious ritual sacrifices were offered. We get the sense that God is not comfortable being “housed” (or confined), to any house built by human hands.
The church often strays into obsession with buildings and structures. We do need places to gather and to do ministry, but buildings are a means, not an end. We need to care for our buildings and grounds (and I’m thankful for those who work at that!), but the true “House of God” is the family of people who gather, worship, learn, and minister together as Jesus did: looking around the immediate neighborhood and seeing where people are suffering, in need, or lonely. If we focus there, the rest will fall into place. JBM