Question: "Was it God's desire for Israel to worship Him in a temple in Jerusalem?"
Answer: David was the first king to plan a temple to worship God in Jerusalem. His son Solomon later fulfilled this plan and oversaw construction of the temple. But was it God’s desire to have a temple in the first place?
First Chronicles 17:1–15 is the account of David’s first plans for building a temple. We read that the prophet Nathan at first affirmed David’s plans. Yet that night God spoke to Nathan, telling him that Solomon would be the one to build the temple instead. God clearly affirmed His desire for a temple and chose the one who would build it. Verses 11–12 state, “When your [David’s] days are over and you go to be with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever.” Clearly, God wanted a temple built, and, as He chose Solomon for the job, He also reinforced the Davidic Covenant, promising a future son of David to rule “forever.”
In response to God’s direction, David offered a prayer of praise to the Lord (1 Chronicles 17:16–27). David accepted this change of plans as God’s will and thanked Him for the abundant blessings promised to him and his family. David had been prevented from building the temple himself, but there was nothing to keep him from helping his son. “David said, ‘My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the Lord should be of great magnificence and fame and splendor in the sight of all the nations. Therefore I will make preparations for it.’ So David made extensive preparations before his death” (1 Chronicles 22:5). First Chronicles 22 lists some of the things that David did as he worked diligently to provide the resources needed for the temple’s construction.
David also affirmed the temple was God’s will in his words to Solomon: “My son, the LORD be with you, and may you have success and build the house of the LORD your God, as he said you would” (1 Chronicles 22:11). In this verse, David states that the building of the temple was God’s plan. As Solomon was involved in doing God’s work, he could expect God’s blessing on his efforts.
When Solomon’s construction was completed, the temple was dedicated. At the dedication ceremony, Solomon acknowledged the feebleness of his efforts compared to an infinite God: “Will God really dwell on earth with humans? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” (2 Chronicles 6:18).
Then, God provided another confirmation of His blessing upon the temple’s construction. “When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it. When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, ‘He is good; / his love endures forever’” (2 Chronicles 7:1–3).
God desired a temple built for His name in Jerusalem. He affirmed it through Nathan the prophet, David the king, Solomon the king, and through His presence at the dedication of the temple.