Could King David do God a Favor?

(written 1/29/20)

king david

As we read in our first reading at Holy Mass today, King David intended to build “a house” for the Lord. A temple to hold the Ark of the Covenant. We can imagine that David thought he would do a magnificent act of religion this way.

The prophet Nathan came to correct David, to remind the king that God needs no favors from us. Rather, the prophet declared to David: The Lord brought you this far, and He will continue to build up your house. He will give you a royal son. You will found a royal dynasty.

Indeed, King David did, by God’s grace, found an everlasting dynasty. The Messiah, the God-man, the King of the universe, sprang from David’s loins. The Christ came into the world as a descendant of David. All this, by God’s power.

For us to imagine that we can do God any favors: that’s a kind of idolatry. We cannot domesticate Almighty God. His power and sway are absolute; all goodness proceeds from His unfathomable blessedness.

We cannot benefit Him. He benefits us. He needs nothing from us. We need everything from Him. We even need to beg Him to give us faith, to give us religion. As we pray in one of the Eucharistic prefaces at Mass: Our desire to thank You is itself Your gift, O Lord.

So Nathan had to correct David, because the king had a delusion about acting with god-like generosity towards God. But the prophet did not get severe with the well-meaning but misguided king. To the contrary: through the prophet, the Lord offered David His loving friendship.

That’s what happens. When we humble ourselves before God, recognizing that all good comes from Him, and all we really have to our own credit are our sins; when we abase ourselves and live in that truth, then He lifts us up and enters into intimate communion with us. We are but dust and ashes, and yet He makes us his partners, His ambassadors, His priests.

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