It was a high and festive day when King David brought up the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. He set up a proper Tent of Meeting in the courtyard. Keep in mind that the city was still rather primitive at that time. The “palace” was still part fortress and not all that large. David had built it up somewhat from the old Jebusite fortress he had captured early in his reign, but it was still rather small. It was a walled enclosure standing on the lower extension of a much larger ridge, but this lower extension had the advantage of steeper sides and was relatively narrow, very easily defended. Even better was the presence of a fresh water spring just below the the crown of this ridge.
Still, his small fortified palace was sumptuous by the standards of his day. And here was the Ark of God’s Presence out in a tent in his courtyard. Surely he could honor his God with better accommodations? God sent a prophet to inform David that this was not the time for such things. At this point a significant portion of David’s kingdom still lived tents. Indeed, his little capital was growing fast, with tents clustered all around, the housing of choice until more permanent structures could be built. This was a nation born of nomads serving a God who owned all Creation. For now, the symbolism of God’s “house” as a tent was appropriate.
David was chosen to establish something more important than mere walls; it was his job to assert the authority and power of God on behalf of Israel. When every nation around them had been subdued and/or turned into supporting allies, it wouldn’t matter what your house was made of. God promised to deliver all of this into David’s hands, but it still required him going to war. That was his job. This divine presence in the form of shalom in its fullest meaning as the one place on earth where mankind could see and know God was far more important than what any mere man could build. There was time enough for the symbolism of a fancy city with a fancy temple later for David’s heir.
It was not lost on David that this meant God intended to establish a dynasty after his name and to favor the whole nation through this arrangement.
Then King David went in and sat before the Lord; and he said: “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far? And yet this was a small thing in Your sight, O Lord God; and You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come. Is this the manner of man, O Lord God? Now what more can David say to You? For You, Lord God, know Your servant. For Your word’s sake, and according to Your own heart, You have done all these great things, to make Your servant know them. Therefore You are great, O Lord God. For there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make for Himself a name — and to do for Yourself great and awesome deeds for Your land — before Your people whom You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, the nations, and their gods? For You have made Your people Israel Your very own people forever; and You, Lord, have become their God.
“Now, O Lord God, the word which You have spoken concerning Your servant and concerning his house, establish it forever and do as You have said. So let Your name be magnified forever, saying, ‘The Lord of hosts is the God over Israel.’ And let the house of Your servant David be established before You. For You, O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, have revealed this to Your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore Your servant has found it in his heart to pray this prayer to You.
“And now, O Lord God, You are God, and Your words are true, and You have promised this goodness to Your servant. Now therefore, let it please You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue before You forever; for You, O Lord God, have spoken it, and with Your blessing let the house of Your servant be blessed forever.” (2 Samuel 7:18-29)