2 Samuel 7: 7
“Wherever I have moved about with all the children of Israel, have I ever spoken a word to anyone from the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?’
Haggai 1: 4, 8
“Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?”
“Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,” says the LORD.”
David wanted earnestly to build the Temple. The remnant returning from Babylon after 70 years was slow to rebuild the Temple that he prepared for and his son established. Taking a step back from a close reading of the context, this tension between HaShem and Israel is interesting to me. It makes me think of a relationship between a husband and wife. It makes me think of me and my wife, really.
It’s funny how we fall into these rhythms and patterns. After a time we take some things for granted and we consider some things as if they are set in granite, immutable, unchangeable; for ill and good. I never doubt the duty and the bond we share, but sometimes I can forget why. My love is an action. It is something I choose to do, to maintain. I have heard it said that love fades. That’s probably true. That doesn’t scare me though, because my marriage isn’t about love, it’s about a commitment I made.
The quoted passages above speak to me of a relationship in repair, perhaps in crisis. One lover (Israel in Haggai’s time) is absorbed in meeting their own needs, when once they had poured so much of themselves (Israel through David) into their lover (HaShem) as nearly their sole interest. That is a dance of young lovers. The adoration makes the object of love and devotion blush and slightly rebuff the attention, but they resign themselves to the passion of their beloved. It’s a sweet, beautiful exchange.
But years later, things are different. The lovers have been through so much. The once unexpected offerings and dedicated time have faded like the overwhelming passion of youth. Whether loving embraces have gone rote or have dwindled, they just aren’t the same anymore. The once arduous lover may rebuff and reject complaints about complacency by reminding their other half that they blushed and pulled away at first. But the forgotten lover has a claim to stake: the damage has been done; the relationship has changed and the cold lover has a duty. The relationship can only be maintained by the intimate exchange that enlivens the fires of passion. That connection is the lifeblood of the marriage. Clearing away all the distractions and focusing on that one person you love more than yourself, makes you lovely to each other.
Building a space in your heart for your beloved to dwell comes easily, it is part of falling in love. Maintaining that sacred space takes work. Shirking the responsibility leads to disaster, ruin and exile. Exile is not a permanent state. With the help of Heaven, a humble heart and the will to push through the pain, you can go home again