Most of us like to see results and we prefer it if they come quickly. When God placed a hold on King David’s proposal to build a temple, David accepted it easily. That is a sign of his humility and wisdom. We’re not talking about a delay of a few months or years; David would never see the temple, an unborn son, Solomon, would build it. David knew better than to pursue a project that God had not anointed.
For David, project evaluation hung on one question. What’s the point of a temple if God’s presence does not fill it? We know that David made God’s presence a priority because one of his first acts as king was to relocate the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. David also listened to God. He understood what his son Solomon expressed later in a Psalm: “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Ps. 127:1). David did not intend to waste time on the empty shell of a religious structure. Unless God blessed the project, the temple would add nothing to anyone’s spiritual life; God already met with His people in the tabernacle.
When God speaks of His dwelling place, he does not point to the temple, and he does not limit Himself to heaven. God dwells with people of humility and contrition:
Thus says the high and exalted One
Who lives forever, whose name is Holy,
“I dwell on a high and holy place,
And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit
In order to revive the spirit of the lowly
And to revive the heart of the contrite.” (Isa. 57:15)
“To this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isa. 66:2)
To be contrite means to acknowledge our limitations and failures (sins) and to turn from them.
Lowliness, or humility, is an acknowledgement of who we are in comparison to God. God is bigger than anything we can understand, better than the best we have experienced. In humility, we pursue Him for more of Himself.
It takes humility to turn from our well-intentioned and noble tasks because God tells us to, with little explanation as to why we should stop. And that is what trembling at God’s word is all about. It means to take Him seriously, to listen with the intention of obeying. David dropped his plans as soon as God said so.
Our buildings and programs need to be seen in perspective. Our ministries might be thoroughly worthwhile and even successful but temples and churches, with all their activities, bear little fruit unless people who cherish the presence of God fill them. People filled with God are used to accomplish His eternal purposes. God promises spiritual revival to those who live in humility and contrition.
When King David laid aside his ambitious dream, he made way for something vastly better; through Solomon, God began building His eternal kingdom on earth (1 Chron. 17:14).