But when the people ask for a king, using words that are almost a citation of Deuteronomy 17, they are condemned as having rejected the Lord as king over them (1 Sam 8:7). Odd. And even more odd that they are granted a king anyway. The first two kings - Saul and David - in different ways embody the ambiguity attached to the office. It is never absolutely clear whether it is good for Israel to have a king or not.
Something similar happens with the temple. When David suggests building it, his court prophet is initially in favour. But God's reaction is essentially to say 'whoever said I wanted a house?' (2 Sam 7). It sounds like a rebuff. The Lord doesn't need a house; he's happy in his tent. And yet it is followed by the promise that, although David cannot build the temple, Solomon his son will do just that. The ambiguity surrounding the temple is in many ways deeper than that surrounding the king. This is God's house, but even the king who built it must confess that heaven and the highest heaven could not contain the Lord - how much less a human building! As the history of Israel rumbles on, the clearing of the temple by good kings and its desecration by bad ones becomes a running theme. And behind that, the presence of the temple fosters false security. Is the temple, at the end of the day, good for Israel or not?
A couple of theological questions off the back of that:
1. If this isn't about Jesus, what on earth is it about?
2. Is there something inherently dangerous to God's people about fixed structures and 'settling down'? (Think about the tabernacle vs. the temple, the judges vs. the king).