Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Then said Solomon, The LORD hath said that he would dwell in the thick darkness.The Blessing of Unrealized Aims
2 Chronicles 6:8
According to the old story, our own Queen Mary is reported to have said to her courtiers that after her death they would find the word Calais graven upon her heart—so long had she brooded upon the loss of that French sea-coast town. Had you examined King David's heart you would have found graven upon it the picture of a temple. That temple had been David's dream. In vision he had for years seen it crowning the crest of Zion. Night and day he thought upon it, planned for it, worked for it. It was his great, his supreme, his all-absorbing ambition to build a house for God. Every other aim was subordinate to this. No doubt David was anxious to make Israel strong, to subdue her enemies, to extend her dominions. But over and above everything else he was anxious to build a house for God. It is Plutarch who says of the Roman Cato that he was so possessed by the conviction that there could be neither peace nor safety for Rome so long as Carthage remained in strength, that he never made a speech in the Roman senate without concluding with this sentence, 'Delenda est Carthago'—Carthage must be destroyed. And in much the same way David never let a day pass without saying to his soul, 'God's house must be built. It is not fit that I should dwell in a house of cedar while the ark of God dwelleth within curtains.' Every day of his long reign David said some such word as that to his soul. The temple was in his heart.
But this temple which was in David's heart never got built upon the solid ground. David's eyes were never gladdened by a sight of that 'house magnifical,' of which by day and by night he had dreamed. He collected vast stores of material, he made lavish preparations, but he never saw one stone laid upon another. His vision never became a fact. He was so occupied with statecraft, he was so incessantly engaged in warfare, that the time never came when he could arise and build. And so he went down to his grave with his great purpose unrealized, with the hope he had cherished in his heart unfulfilled.
I. And this is just an illustration of the great tragedy and bitterness of human life. The bitterness of human life is not its brevity, but its incompleteness. The brevity of life is only bitter as it contributes to its incompleteness. Its incompleteness is the real tragedy. And incompleteness is the very badge and sign of the average human life. Occasionally we may come across a Simeon who feels that life has given him all he desired and hoped, and who can therefore say, 'Lord, now lettest thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation'. But the vast majority of men do not want to depart, for the simple reason that they have not seen the fulfilment of all that was in their heart. There are hopes which they have not realized, plans they have not perfected, tasks which they have not finished. Achievement never answers to intention. We dream of temples which never get built. The grave is more than the burying-place of lifeless bodies, it is the burying-place also of many a great ambition and many a noble hope.
II. His failure to build the temple of his dreams was the great disappointment and bitterness of David's life. And yet the significant fact is that David was a richer and nobler man for cherishing this dream, that never got realized. If it be true, as I have been saying, that the bitterness of life consists in its incompleteness; that our greatest disappointments come from cherishing hopes that never get realized, then it would seem that the way to save ourselves this bitterness would be to cherish no great or beautiful hopes. But in so arguing we should go far astray. In a twofold way I can see that the cherishing of this aim was productive of blessing.
1. It was a blessing to David's own soul. Nobody can live with a great purpose without being ennobled by it. Little aims make little men. But great aims make great men. There is a refining, enriching influence in the mere possession of a lofty purpose.
2. It was a blessing to those who came after him. It is quite true that David never built the temple. But was it mere waste to have cherished the ambition? Was it all for nothing that he had made such vast preparation and collected such store of material? No, it was not for nothing. Solomon could never have built his temple had not David his father cherished the hope of building one. The materials David collected Solomon used. The dream of the father became the deed of the son. No, it was not all for nothing that David cherished his hope. 'Thou didst well that it was in thy heart.'
God takes will for deed, and reckons honest purpose for achievement. 'Thou didst well,' He said to David, with his plan to build a house, 'that it was in thy heart'. And if I am asked what this means and involves, I answer that I think that God took David's will for his deed, and that in the great books there is a finished temple down to the Shepherd King's account.
—J. D. Jones, The Gospel of Grace, p. 221.
References.—VI. 12-33.—A. Whyte, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii. 1900, p. 58. VI. 27.—P. W. Darnton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxix. 1891, p. 331. VI. 28-30.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlv. No. 2637. VI. 40.—R. E. Hutton, The Crown of Christ, vol. ii. p. 195. VII. 1.—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in a Religious House, vol. i. p. 132. VII. 1-3, Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii. No. 378. VIII. 12-13.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—2 Kings, Chronicles, etc., p. 114. XI. 1-17 and XII.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlviii. No. 2776. XII.—Ibid. vol. xxxix. No. 2306. XII. 8.—Ibid. vol. xxxix. No. 2306. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—2 Kings, Chronicles, etc., p. 121. XII. 14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvii. No. 2749. XIII. 11.—C. H. Kelly, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxx. 1906, p. 65. XIII. 18.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—2 Kings, Chronicles, etc., p. 129. XIV. 2-8.—Ibid. p. 136. XIV. 11.—A. Phelps, The Old Testament a Living Book for All Ages, p. 33. R. E. Hutton, The Crown of Christ, vol. i. p. 125. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—2 Kings, Chronicles, etc., p. 139. XV. 1-2.—G. Matheson, Voices of the Spirit, p. 30. XV. 7.—C. Houghton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xl. 1891, p. 189. XV. 8, 9, 12-15.—A. Phelps, The Old Testament a Living Book for All Ages, p. 43. XV. 15.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—2 Kings, Chronicles, etc., p. 147. XVI. 9.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx. No. 1152. XVII. 1-10.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—2 Kings, Chronicles, etc., p. 155. XVII. 3-5.—A. Phelps, The Old Testament a Living Book for All Ages, p. 89. XVII. 16.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxvii. No. 2227. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture— 2 Kings, Chronicles, etc., p. 161.
But I have built an house of habitation for thee, and a place for thy dwelling for ever.
And the king turned his face, and blessed the whole congregation of Israel: and all the congregation of Israel stood.
And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who hath with his hands fulfilled that which he spake with his mouth to my father David, saying,
Since the day that I brought forth my people out of the land of Egypt I chose no city among all the tribes of Israel to build an house in, that my name might be there; neither chose I any man to be a ruler over my people Israel:
But I have chosen Jerusalem, that my name might be there; and have chosen David to be over my people Israel.
Now it was in the heart of David my father to build an house for the name of the LORD God of Israel.
But the LORD said to David my father, Forasmuch as it was in thine heart to build an house for my name, thou didst well in that it was in thine heart:
Notwithstanding thou shalt not build the house; but thy son which shall come forth out of thy loins, he shall build the house for my name.
The LORD therefore hath performed his word that he hath spoken: for I am risen up in the room of David my father, and am set on the throne of Israel, as the LORD promised, and have built the house for the name of the LORD God of Israel.
And in it have I put the ark, wherein is the covenant of the LORD, that he made with the children of Israel.
And he stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands:
For Solomon had made a brasen scaffold, of five cubits long, and five cubits broad, and three cubits high, and had set it in the midst of the court: and upon it he stood, and kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven,
And said, O LORD God of Israel, there is no God like thee in the heaven, nor in the earth; which keepest covenant, and shewest mercy unto thy servants, that walk before thee with all their hearts:
Thou which hast kept with thy servant David my father that which thou hast promised him; and spakest with thy mouth, and hast fulfilled it with thine hand, as it is this day.
Now therefore, O LORD God of Israel, keep with thy servant David my father that which thou hast promised him, saying, There shall not fail thee a man in my sight to sit upon the throne of Israel; yet so that thy children take heed to their way to walk in my law, as thou hast walked before me.
Now then, O LORD God of Israel, let thy word be verified, which thou hast spoken unto thy servant David.
But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!
Have respect therefore to the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to hearken unto the cry and the prayer which thy servant prayeth before thee:
That thine eyes may be open upon this house day and night, upon the place whereof thou hast said that thou wouldest put thy name there; to hearken unto the prayer which thy servant prayeth toward this place.
Hearken therefore unto the supplications of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, which they shall make toward this place: hear thou from thy dwelling place, even from heaven; and when thou hearest, forgive.
If a man sin against his neighbour, and an oath be laid upon him to make him swear, and the oath come before thine altar in this house;
Then hear thou from heaven, and do, and judge thy servants, by requiting the wicked, by recompensing his way upon his own head; and by justifying the righteous, by giving him according to his righteousness.
And if thy people Israel be put to the worse before the enemy, because they have sinned against thee; and shall return and confess thy name, and pray and make supplication before thee in this house;
Then hear thou from the heavens, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest to them and to their fathers.
When the heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; yet if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou dost afflict them;
Then hear thou from heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, when thou hast taught them the good way, wherein they should walk; and send rain upon thy land, which thou hast given unto thy people for an inheritance.
If there be dearth in the land, if there be pestilence, if there be blasting, or mildew, locusts, or caterpillers; if their enemies besiege them in the cities of their land; whatsoever sore or whatsoever sickness there be:
Then what prayer or what supplication soever shall be made of any man, or of all thy people Israel, when every one shall know his own sore and his own grief, and shall spread forth his hands in this house:
Then hear thou from heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and render unto every man according unto all his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou only knowest the hearts of the children of men:)
That they may fear thee, to walk in thy ways, so long as they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers.
Moreover concerning the stranger, which is not of thy people Israel, but is come from a far country for thy great name's sake, and thy mighty hand, and thy stretched out arm; if they come and pray in this house;
Then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for; that all people of the earth may know thy name, and fear thee, as doth thy people Israel, and may know that this house which I have built is called by thy name.
If thy people go out to war against their enemies by the way that thou shalt send them, and they pray unto thee toward this city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name;
Then hear thou from the heavens their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause.
If they sin against thee, (for there is no man which sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them over before their enemies, and they carry them away captives unto a land far off or near;
Yet if they bethink themselves in the land whither they are carried captive, and turn and pray unto thee in the land of their captivity, saying, We have sinned, we have done amiss, and have dealt wickedly;
If they return to thee with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity, whither they have carried them captives, and pray toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, and toward the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house which I have built for thy name:
Then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place, their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive thy people which have sinned against thee.
Now, my God, let, I beseech thee, thine eyes be open, and let thine ears be attent unto the prayer that is made in this place.
Now therefore arise, O LORD God, into thy resting place, thou, and the ark of thy strength: let thy priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation, and let thy saints rejoice in goodness.
O LORD God, turn not away the face of thine anointed: remember the mercies of David thy servant.