Read Psalm 5.
After David became king and set the capital of Israel in Jerusalem, he had the ark of the covenant moved to the city so that he could be near the presence of God. Though the ark itself had made the rounds, spending time in Philistine territory, Kiriath Jearim, and the home of Obed-Edom, the tabernacle was not moved from Shiloh. So, David had a special tent erected in Jerusalem to house the ark. There, David often went to worship.
In Psalm 5, David writes about the “house” of God. This “house” was neither the tabernacle left in Shiloh nor the temple that would be built some years later by his son Solomon. It appears that David considered God’s “house” to be the place where the Lord’s presence dwelled. In his day, it was in that simple tent he set up for the ark.
[Side note: David also mentions bowing down “toward [God’s] holy temple” (v. 7). Since there was not yet a temple in Jerusalem, he was either bowing toward the site where it would one day be built or he was bowing toward the heavenly temple of God, since the Lord’s throne is in heaven and the ark is His footstool (1 Chronicles 28:2; Psalm 66:1). The earthly tabernacle, and later the temple, were modeled after their heavenly counterpart (Hebrews 8:5).]
David writes, “But I, by your great love, can come into your house” (Psalm 5:7). Knowing something about God’s “house”—the tabernacle and temple structures—this grabbed my attention. Both the wilderness tabernacle and the later temples had three basic sections: an outer courtyard, the holy place inside, and beyond that, the most holy place. Only priests and Levites were permitted inside the temple proper, the holy place (2 Chronicles 23:6). The most holy place, where the ark itself was kept, was even more exclusive. There, only the high priest was permitted, and then only on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:1–17). Everyone else had to remain in the outer courtyard.
David was not from Aaron’s line, nor was he a Levite. He was from the tribe of Judah, a decidedly non-priestly line (Hebrews 7:14). Yet, here in Psalm 5, David says he can come into God’s house. 2 Samuel 7:18 actually says, “Then King David went in and sat before the LORD.” The image is of David entering the tent he’s constructed and sitting in front of the ark.
Scripture also says that David offered sacrifices to God (2 Samuel 6:17). That’s very priestly—and the very thing that King Saul before him was not permitted to do (1 Samuel 13:8–14). In addition, he wore an ephod, which was part of the priestly uniform (2 Samuel 6:14; cf. Exodus 28:6–14). Plus, we’re told that some of David’s sons served as priests (2 Samuel 18:8) and that Solomon followed in his dad’s footsteps, also offering sacrifices to God (1 Kings 8:63–64).
David and his line are somehow unique. It’s not that David had actually become a priest, nor is it that his sons were true Levitical priests in the strictest sense. Instead, it’s that David and his sons performed some priestly duties as members of the royal household in Jerusalem. David, being the King in Jerusalem, is following in the tradition of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18–20), the priest-king of Salem (what Jerusalem was called in Abraham’s time). He is foreshadowing the ministry of Jesus, who would be both King and High Priest in the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 7:1–22).
In Christ, you and I are part of a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). We bear the same status as King David. And we, too, are invited into God’s house to sit before Him, to talk with Him, to worship Him.
It’s God’s presence that makes all the difference. David says to God, “Evil people are not welcome” (Psalm 5:4), and “The arrogant cannot stand in your presence” (v. 5). On the other hand, the righteous are blessed, because “you surround them with your favor as with a shield” (v. 12).
There is no temple today. We have no need of one. Christians are both corporately and individually a temple of God’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16–17; 6:19). God’s house is now within us. We no longer need to enter a tent to draw near to the Lord; we are with Him every minute of every day—and we have every blessing that goes with such a privilege.