By Raymond Harris
Regarding Scripture: II Samuel 7.1-7
Note to the Reader – I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Books of Samuel in conjunction with this article.
Studying II Samuel is an excursion into “where does one begin and continue?” This month provides only four opportunities for a study of II Samuel and we are on number two. While there are many direct spiritual applications we can examine, I would like to take this opportunity to take a major, but interesting and important excursion into theological philosophical musings about how we think about Jehovah God.
Wikipedia states that theological “is compounded from two Greek words theos (god) and logos (rational utterance)”.1 As a Greek word, theos can refer to any god: Jehovah God, or to any god other than Jehovah. This is because the word theos is a general term that does not relate to any particular “deity”. In this regard, it is similar to the Hebrew word el and the English word god. The only way Christians know that the generic theos, el, god is referencing Jehovah is by contextual use and context commands a capitalized reference – God. Furthermore, logos can refer to words, sayings, a discourse, or teaching and thereby making it a “rational utterance” such as mentioned earlier.
Dictionary.com states that philosophical “pertains to philosophy”.2 So again, let us look to Wikipedia, which states that philosophy “is of Ancient Greek origin… meaning ‘love of knowledge’, [or] ‘love of wisdom.’3 The word philosophy itself is a compound word containing: philo which seems to be a derivative of phileo meaning “to love” conjoined with sophia which means “wisdom”.
While one of Paul’s epistles contains a warning4 for Christians to avoid being taken captive by philosophy, it is joined to the words “vain deceit” which means that those words must be understood as a unit. While it is true that there are some philosophies that are contrary to discipleship, and some philosophy is used against discipleship, that does not make all philosophical undertakings evil. To the contrary, the scriptures have many exhortations for the people of God to pursue wisdom. This is seen in the writings of Solomon, the records of Job, the teachings of Jesus, and the epistles of Paul. The scriptures are replete with admonitions “to love wisdom”. Knowing this, then there must be philosophical concerns that are accurate for discipleship. But the disciple’s “love of wisdom” must be grounded in a Jehovah minded theology, the mechanism by which one meditates (contemplates) Jehovah, His creation, and His revelation.
The Literal Temple
II Samuel 7 records for us David’s musings about the “condition” of Jehovah. In David’s mind, God has been left to remain in a non-exalted status because Jehovah was still in a tabernacle while David lived in a home. For the one who wants to maintain Jehovah’s exalted status, they should easily identify with David’s statement.
David believed he lived in better accommodations than Jehovah himself, the very one who had given David everything. Because of this, David wanted to construct a house (Temple) for God. Within this same prophecy Jehovah prohibited5 David from building the house, but that did not prevent David from acquiring the materials for its construction.6 It would be Solomon who would take the materials and build the temple.
However, our concern is to focus on the response of Jehovah to David’s intention, not on the actual house (temple). II Samuel 7.5-7 records Jehovah revealing this to Nathan (CJB):
“Go and tell my servant David that this is what [the LORD] says: ‘You are going to build me a house to live in? Since the day I brought the people of Isra’el out of Egypt until today, I never lived in a house; rather, I traveled in a tent and a tabernacle. Everywhere I traveled with all the people of Isra’el, did I ever speak a word to any of the tribes of Isra’el, whom I ordered to shepherd my people Isra’el, asking, “Why haven’t you built me a cedar-wood house?”’
This is a very informative response. It seems that Jehovah had no desire to be given any dwelling place other than His tent (tabernacle). While that is extremely important, the real issue is that David’s desire removed Jehovah from roaming with His people and placed Him in a permanent structure, a box if you will. While the temple had much history and destructive episodes, the reality is that in AD/CE 70 Jehovah removed Himself from the box in which He was contained. This has strong philosophical theological implications.
The Metaphorical Temple
It seems that since the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, disciples have been trying to rebuild, reconstruct, and classify Jehovah. Oddly enough, it seems that like David disciples are unaware of the philosophical ramifications of their undertaking. If we are going to believe that Jehovah is the Creator, and that He is greater in wisdom, in intelligence, in magnitude, in strength, in capability, in capacity, in infinity, then why do we through physical means (temples, cathedrals, church houses) or theological philosophy (doctrines, teachings, applications) attempt to confine our God? The question is: is He or is He not greater than we? Since disciples believe that God is greater, then why do we confine Him to a building or a thought process, even if it is biblically based?
The scriptures state that His ways are past finding out, His wisdom is deep, his judgments unsearchable,7 and that there are secret things that belong to our God.8 The scriptures states that God cannot be represented by gold, silver, or anything made by hands9 and Jehovah Himself prohibited the construction of such things.10 Since Jehovah prohibited the physical representation of limitation, then is it possible that we have limited Him through systematic formulated hypothesized religion? Another way of addressing this is quoting “teaching for doctrine the commandments of men”.
Our God is far greater than any human mind, even the discipled, spiritually minded, Jesus-guided Christian mind. My hope and prayer is two-fold: one, if disciples have constructed a theological philosophical metaphorical box, that they let God out of their box; and two, to be cautiously aware that humanity, even disciples, are tempted to contain (reduce) Jehovah to the finite grasp of our limited knowledge and experience. May the Lord bless us.
1. “theological.” Wikipedia.com. 10 Sep. 2008. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theological.
2. “philosophical.” Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 10 Sep. 2008. Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/philosophical.
3. “philosophy.” Wikipedia.com 10 Sep. 2008. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy.
4. “philosophical warning.” Colossians 2.8.
5. “Jehovah prohibits David’s temple construction.” II Samuel 7.13; it is I Chronicles 22.8 that explains why.
6. “temple materials.” I Chronicles 22.1-5.
7. “ways past finding out.” Romans 11.33.
8. “Secret things.” Deuteronomy 29.29.
9. “made with hands.” Acts 17.29.
10. “God prohibited objects construction.” Exodus 20.4.