David’s Humility



As Israel’s king, David’s strategic plan envisioned the building of a temple to Jehovah in Jerusalem. God confirmed Jerusalem would indeed become the spiritual center of Israel, but David would not build the Temple (2 Sam. 7 cf 1 Chr. 28).

Projecting ourselves into David’s circumstances, we could respond with a range of emotion—disappointment, hurt feelings, anger or even resentment and bitterness. David’s true character, however, is on display for all to see.

Nathan’s startling message to David contained new revelation. God had something greater in mind although David would be instrumental in amassing materials for the temple project. Instead, God guaranteed David a perpetual posterity, an everlasting kingdom and an eternal throne. Today, we call God’s  guarantee the Davidic Covenant.

Following Nathan’s announcement of God’s plans for David, we are told, “Then King David went in and sat before the Lord” (2 Sam. 7:18).


The surrounding context about the location of the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle is key to understanding this statement.

  • David had purposefully moved the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem in preparation for building the Temple (6:1-15). David’s decision not to relocate the Tabernacle in Gibeon at the same time is somewhat puzzling.

You will remember that after the Philistines captured the Ark in the battle at Ebenezer, it was moved repeatedly before being returned by oxcart to Israel (1 Sam. 4:11; 6:7-13). The Jewish inhabitants of Beth Shemesh retrieved the Ark as it traversed the countryside, but sadly had little regard for Israel’s holiest object. More than 50,000 people died for looking inside.

In desperation, the survivors summoned the citizens of Kirjath Jearim to retrieve the Ark (6:20). The Ark was then transported to Kirjath Jearim where according to Ussher’s Chronology it remained for 100 years under the watch care of Abinadab’s family (7:1).

  • By the time David assumed the throne of Israel, the Tabernacle had been moved from Shiloh to Gibeon. There had been four locations for the Tabernacle since the nation had arrived in the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

When Israel first entered the land, the Tabernacle was erected in Gilgal, where it stayed for the 14 years of conquest. After the tribes received their inheritance in the land, the Tabernacle was moved to Shiloh where it remained for approximately 369 years.

Although the Bible does not specifically record the event, it seems likely the Philistines destroyed Shiloh after capturing the Ark at Ebenezer (Ps. 78:60, 68; Jeremiah 7:12,14; 26:6-9).  Jewish commentators explain that when news arrived that the Ark had been captured, all of the portable components of the Tabernacle were removed and hidden for protection against plunder.

Shortly thereafter, the Tabernacle was temporarily moved to Nob. If you remember, it was there that the high priest gave David the expired bread from Table of Showbread (1 Sam.21:1).  

Even when the Tabernacle was at Shiloh, additions and renovations had been made in the process of maintaining the Tent of Meeting (1 Sam. 1:9). It is possible that by this time—approximately 467 years following the construction—the Tabernacle had become a semi-permanent structure with the tent covering for the roof possibly all that remained of the original.

There is no clear biblical explanation for the sustained location of the Tabernacle in Gibeon. We can, however, make inferences from Scripture (see 1 Chronicles 16:37-43 and 21:16-30). The decision to maintain the Tabernacle in Gibeon prior to the completion of the Temple in Jerusalem was likely based on practicality.

Although worship and sacrifices continued at Gibeon until the Temple was built, the Ark was housed in the City of David where it was protected inside the fortress. The Ark of the Covenant was now in proximity to the city that would become the focal point of Israel’s worship and the place where Jehovah would set His name forever (1 Ki. 9:3).



David had prepared a temporary tent-like pavilion to house the Ark in the City of David until the temple he proposed could be built. He entered the tent alone and the grammar suggests he sat in silence undoubtedly pondering the implications of Nathan’s message.

David’s character was revealed when he broke the silence with an expression of thanksgiving.

 “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” ( 2 Sam. 7:20-22).

David was overwhelmed by the knowledge that God had chosen him. He had not forgotten his humble beginnings as a shepherd, nor were his royal surroundings taken for granted. David owed all to God. God had called him, guided him, subdued his enemies and established his reputation (2 Sam. 7:9). Now according to the vision entrusted to Nathan, David would not build a house of worship for  God. Instead, God would  build a house—an eternal dynasty—for David.

There is no indication how long he sat mute. When he finally spoke, his words convey profound humility, gratitude and faith. David humbly asked, “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far?” (7:18).

David understood that the seemingly insurmountable barriers preventing a shepherd from assuming the throne of Israel were minutiae from God’s perspective. To be king would have been enough for David, but God revealed He was planning something even more amazing that would span millennia.  

Recognizing God had chosen him as the progenitor of the family line leading to Messiah, David asked, “Is this the manner of man, O Lord God?” (v. 19). The English Standard Version renders the Hebrew translation as, “and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord God!” The Tanakh adds further light: “May that be the law for the people, O Lord God (יְהוִֽה׃ אֲדֹנָ֥י הָאָדָ֖ם תּוֹרַ֥ת וְזֹ֛את, JPS).”

God’s word irrevocably established David’s right to the throne forever. David acknowledged God’s wisdom and purpose, but also revealed an aspect of God’s gracious character often missed.

Acutely aware of God’s grace, David modestly concluded, “Now what more can David say to You? For You, Lord God, know Your servant” (v. 20). With fervent gratitude, he acknowledged, “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” (v. 22).

David was not only awestruck by the personal implications of God’s revelation, but also by the ramifications of the covenant to the nation of Israel. God declared:

“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; nor shall the sons of wickedness oppress them anymore” (2 Sam. 7:10).

David grasped that Israel’s future was intertwined with his own destiny. The Davidic Covenant reaffirms and underscores Israel’s right to the land God promised the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in perpetuity forever (Gen. 7:7-8; 15:18; Jer. 17:7; 25:5). The Davidic Covenant will be literally fulfilled in the still future Messianic Kingdom.

Stressing God’s grace on behalf of His people, Israel, David exclaimed,

“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” (2 Sam. 7:23-24).

No other nation has experienced anything like it. Israel is unique. It was not Israel’s merit that gained this unprecedented favor, but God’s sovereign grace.

David ended his prayer with a powerful declaration of faith. His words are simple, yet eloquent and profound:

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”(vv. 28-29).

David not only affirmed God’s promises by faith, he petitioned God to keep the covenant. The words translated “let it please you” form an imperative. Not a cheeky demand, David wholeheartedly expressed faith in God while at the same time soliciting everything promised.


What can 21st century Christians learn from God’s refusal to approve King David’s plans?

First and foremost, David did not question God’s refusal. There is no record of disappointment, hurt feelings, anger, resentment or bitterness. In subsequent passages, David zealously secured the materials for Temple construction thereby ensuring the success of his heir, Solomon (1 Chr. 28-29:20).

Humility_CS Lewis quote_compT_MKM

Second if we look to David as our example, we see a mighty man who used journaling to document the outworking of God’s plan. David wrote about God from the heart with humility, gratitude and faith—virtues truly befitting the king of Israel.

The circumstances you have overcome in the past, the challenges you face today and the preparations you make to succeed in life—while important—are nothing compared to God’s plans for you.

Take time to reflect on God’s abundant blessing. If you’re not in the habit of recording what He has done for you, start journaling His goodness today. That exercise can be a powerful motivator empowering you to express gratitude—which will in turn increase your faith—fostering a humble spirit in light of God’s awesome power.  


1) Details and full: King David Playing the Harp. (By Gerard van Honthorst [Public domain]/Wikimedia/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios)
2) Path of the Ark and Tabernacle (Author’s archive/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios)
3) Quote by C.S. Lewis. (Digital composition, MKM Portfolios/Background image, Pixabay)

Copyright © 2016 Charles E. McCracken, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.