In his sermon that ultimately led to his martyrdom, Stephen knew he was speaking to a hostile crowd, and just before his death he called into question the construction of the temple:
46 David found favor in God’s sight, and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for Him. 48 However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says: (Acts 7:46-48 NASV)
Stephen said the Temple was made of human hands and it was not where God dwells.
Was Stephen referring to the fact, that the Temple in Jesus’s day was paid for and constructed by the reprobate King Herod? Or was Stephen talking about the fact the Ark of the Covenant on which the presence of God dwelt had disappeared centuries earlier and the Holy of Holies in Herod’s temple was empty?
Or was he talking about something else?
There were three religious structures that ancient Israel built to house the Ark of the Covenant. The two main structures involved the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon. But for a brief period stuck between Moses’s Tabernacle and the Temple was the Tabernacle of David.
It was created when King David moved the Ark of the Covenant from the Tabernacle of Moses to a tent he set up in Jerusalem.
Though it doesn’t receive a lot of Biblical press, it was probably the most significant of the three structures as the prophets began talking of a future day when the Tabernacle of David would be restored (Amos 9:11-12). They also spoke of the day when the Messiah would rule from David’s tent, a reference to the Tabernacle of David (Isaiah 16:5).
David’s tabernacle differed from the other two structures in that it provided access for everyone to the presence of God. There were no divisions separating the men and the women and gentiles as there was in the Temple. There were no restrictions due to disabilities or illegitimacy .
There were no animal sacrifices at the Tabernacle of David other than sacrifices of praise as it generated a new form of praise and worship involving instruments, singing and dancing (Psalm 150 ).
People were also free to enter the tent and stand before the Ark of the Covenant and offer “sacrifices” of praise to God.
And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord. (Psalm 27:6 NASV)
In both the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple, only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was hidden from site and then only after he made sacrifices.
Of course the most imposing of the structures was the Temple constructed by King David’s son Solomon. Though David wanted to build a Temple for God, there are serious questions about whether God wanted a temple.
The idea for the Temple started when David compared his massive palace with the simple, little tent that he had set up to house the Ark of the Covenant. Playing in the background of all this were the elaborate temples that kings of other nations built to worship their pagan gods.
Now it came about when the king lived in his house, and the Lord had given him rest on every side from all his enemies, 2 that the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within tent curtains.” (2 Samuel 7:1-2 NASV)
So David consulted with the prophet Nathan to see if he should build a temple. Initially, Nathan told David to build whatever was on his heart (verse 3). But at this point, Nathan was delivering his opinion on the matter and not the Lord’s.
That same night Nathan received a dream where God said that David was not to build a temple. God had dwelt in Moses’s Tabernacle and David’s tent and never asked any of the tribes to build a temple and God did not want David to build one either (2 Samuel 7:4-7).
But the dream didn’t stop there. The Lord says that instead of David building a house for God, God was going to build a house for David through one of his descendants:
11 even from the day that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you. 12 When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, 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.
16 Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”’” (2 Sam 7: 11-13, 16 NASV).
But notice that his descendant’s throne would reign forever.
This was clearly a reference to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The church that was Christ’s body would be God’s temple (John 2:20-21; 1 Corinthians 3:16) and the believers would be the living stones of that temple (1 Peter 2:5). God was going to dwell in the hearts of His people like He did on the Ark of the Covenant (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
God wanted believers to be His temple, not some structure made of stone and wood.
But notice David’s reaction. He misconstrued that prophecy and thought it meant that his immediate son Solomon was supposed to build the temple (1 Chronicles 22:7-10).
Though God told David not to build the Temple, he purchased all the materials, designed it, selected the place where to build it and even arranged the labor force (1 Chronicles 22:2-5; 1 Chronicles 21:24-26).
David did all the work and all Solomon had to do was give the order to build. Though technically it was Solomon who built the temple, it was actually David who told his son to “arise, therefore, and build the sanctuary of the Lord God” (1 Chronicles 22:18-19).
Once Solomon completed construction, he moved the Ark of the Covenant from David’s tabernacle into the Temple and the glory of God fell so heavy the priests could not stand to minister (2 Chronicles 7:1-3).
Of course this begs the question: if David was not supposed to build a temple, why did God’s glory fall?
I think the reason is this. Though we desire to do God’s will, we are not doing it perfectly every time we minister.
Is your pastor always preaching the message that God wants every Sunday? Obviously not. No one has a perfect track record. Nevertheless, God will still anoint and bless the message even though it’s not the word God desired that Sunday morning.
I know this may sound like heresy, but I believe God will bless and anoint us even when we make mistakes. Romans 8:28 says that God turns everything (even our mistakes) to good for those who love Him.
Some have also suggested that Solomon’s temple was a foretaste of what was to come through Jesus and the church. I tend to disagree with this view because God said He was going to build the house and this is exactly what happened in the early church after the Holy Spirit fell and begin residing in the hearts of man because of Christ’s redemption.
God’s promise of a temple was to be fulfilled in Christ, not Solomon.
I don’t believe God wanted a physical temple, but still worked with it once Solomon built it.
We learn a couple of things from this story:
- We see how easy it is to misinterpret prophecy. When God referred to David’s descendant, he immediately presumed it was Solomon. More wishful interpretation than an actual one. Prophecy is not always fulfilled in the way you think it will be.
- God will still bless the work of our hands, even if we don’t get God’s will perfectly right. The key here is motivation. David’s heart was right. He loved God and was not building his own Kingdom, but God’s.
- David’s Magnificent Temple built in the flesh: Shawn Nelson
More in the Tabernacle of David series:
Did God ever request for a physical temple to be built? Let’s take a look at what the bible says about Solomon’s Temple and exactly who was responsible for its construction, and why.
2 Samuel 5:9-13, “So David dwelt in the fort, and called it the city of David. And David built round about from Millo and inward. And David went on, and grew great, and the Lord God of hosts was with him.”
“And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David and cedar trees, and carpenters, and masons; and they built David a house. And David perceived that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for his people Israel’s sake.”
“And David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he was come from Hebron; and there were yet sons and daughters born to David.”
So, who is the King of Tyre and what is his connection to the Temple? If you really want to know who he is, read Ezekiel 28.
The first time we are introduced to the “King of Tyre” is in 2 Samuel. The “King of Tyre” makes his presence known, when he offers to Build King David a palace to live in.
I found it interesting that, while studying 2 Samuel, in a bible study class, one of my classmates questioned why David would take on more concubines and wives after he moved into his new home. (Some versions of the bible refer to his home as a palace.)
Once his “new dwelling” was completed, David was so proud of his “house of cedar” that he decided to build a “temple” for the Lord. David then made the following statement to his Prophet Nathan.
2 Samuel 7:1-3, “And it came to pass. When the king sat in his house, and the Lord had given him rest round about from all his enemies; that the king said unto Nathan the prophet, See how, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains. And Nathan said to the king, Go, do all that is in thine heart; for the Lord is with thee.” What happens next is astonishing, but mostly misunderstood.
2 Samuel 7 4-17, “”And it came to pass that night, that the word of the Lord came unto Nathan saying, Go tell my servant David, Thus saith the Lord. “Shalt thou build me a house for me to dwell in?”
Whereas I have not dwelt in any house since the time that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, even to this day, but have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle.
“In all the places wherein I have walked with all the children of Israel, spake, I a word with any of the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to feed my people Israel, saying, Why build ye not me a house of cedar?”
“Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, I took thee from the sheep cote, and from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel.” “And I was with thee whither-soever thou went-est, and have cut off all thine enemies out of thy sight, and have made thee a great name, like unto the name of the great men that are in the earth.” “Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them anymore, as before-time,
And as since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel, and have caused thee to rest from all thine enemies. Also the Lord telleth thee that He will make thee a house.
And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy father,
I will up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels (*Jesus) and I will establish “His kingdom”. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of “His Kingdom” forever.
*Galatians 3:17, “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds, ” meaning many people, but “and to your seed.” meaning one person, who is Christ.”
‘I will be His Father, and He shall be My Son. If he commits *(iniquity), I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the “stripes” of the children of men; but my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee; Thy throne shall be established forever.’
*(Though Jesus never committed iniquity, he became “sin”, by taking our place on the cross and by his “stripes” we are healed. (Isaiah 53:3))
Solomon was not the one to build a house for God. It was Yeshua, the Messiah, whom God chose to build a “House for His Name”!!!!
So why did The King of Tyre build David a palace, in the first place, since God chose His Son, Yeshua, “The Messiah” to be the “Living Temple”. To find the answer, let’s go back to the reason why King David took on more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after being given the Palace. The answer is “PRIDE”
The King of Tyre knew that David would succumb “to pride” once he took residence in such a magnificent palace and that’s exactly what David did!!! As a result, David committed two grievous sins. Adultery and murder!!!
The palace roof gave David the ability to observe Bathsheba, as she bathed, filling him with feelings of lust, resulting in his committing the sin of adultery. Their union resulting in Bathsheba’s pregnancy. To make matters worse, David decided to dispose of her husband, Uriah, by sending him into battle for the specific purpose of covering his crime of adultery, resulting in the death of Uriah. Therefore, David committed another sin, murder. Although God loved David, He would not let these grievous sins go unpunished. (The baby Bathsheba conceived – died!!)
Numbers 14:18, “The Lord is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the sons to the third and fourth generation” Although David and Bathsheba’s first child died, as a result of their sin, David and Bathsheba, had another son, Solomon.
Solomon lived a life of decadence with over 600 wives. He could not control his lust. Among Solomon’s 700 wives and 300 concubines, were many foreigners, which angered God and the inevitable happened: They lured King Solomon away from Yahweh into the worship of false gods and idols. Yes, over his 40-year reign, Solomon did many great things, but he finally succumbed to the sins of lesser men.
In addition, Solomon was neither chastened nor punished with the “rod of men”. In fact his life became so dismal, that he wrote Ecclesiastes 1:2, which begins: “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”
Believe it or not, God was not speaking, to Nathan, about Solomon. God was revealing, to Nathan, that He was not interested in any “stone and mortar” temple. God was telling Nathan that he never asked for a “house of cedar.”
God always intended for Jesus/Yeshua to be the temple. A “living” temple. That is why Jesus/Yeshua told the Pharisees in John 2:19, “Destroy This Temple and I will rebuild it in 3 days – and He did!!!
David misunderstood God, believing that his son, Solomon, would build a temple to the Lord, when in fact, God was confirming His covenant with Abraham, as referenced in Genesis, pertaining to the Messiah. That mistake continues to flourish, to this day!!!