Text: 2 Samuel 7:8-16
This summer we are looking at God’s big story in the Bible, focusing on seven major themes in each of the testaments. I’d like to remind you what we’ve looked at so far.
#1 CREATION: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen. 1:1)
#2 ABRAHAM: All people on earth will be blessed through you. (Gen. 12:3)
#3 EXODUS: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt,
out of the land of slavery. (Exodus 20:2)
Genesis introduced the major themes of who we are and why we are here, leaving us with the great problem of sin after the Fall. The story of Abraham introduces God’s solution to that great problem with God staking His name and reputation on keeping a promise to multiply and bless Abraham’s family and through them bless humanity, the earth, and the nations. In Exodus we saw an historic demonstration of God’s salvation and deliverance of His people from slavery. And God gave His Law – His Word – to lead His people toward experiencing those blessings.
Today we jump over a lot of history, from God establishing the Tabernacle, a system of offerings and a priesthood, through the time of the Judges, to the time of the Kings. There are a lot of stories there, but they all trace the ups and downs and the comings and goings of humanity toward God and away from God. Through it all, God is faithful and pursues His people and through them the world. That’s one of the most unusual things about the God of Israel, about our Lord; he does not turn away from us, but is ever pursuing us for redemption.
After a first king who looked the part, but failed spectacularly, God raised up the young shepherd, David, to be King of Israel. While David also had a great moral failing, he nonetheless sought God, embraced repentance, and became a key part of God’s greater plan. While there is much we could focus on between the Exodus and David, we are going to look at an expansion of God’s covenant, made with David and leading to Jesus Christ. The fourth key verse of the Old Testament is this:
#4 DAVID: The Lord has sought out a man after His own heart
and appointed him ruler of His people. (1 Samuel 13:14)
David was an extraordinarily effective King. He organizes a system of government and defeats many of the surrounding opposing nations. Notably he brings the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and wants to build a Temple for it, but that will be done later by his son, Solomon. Jerusalem becomes known as the City of David, but also as the City of God.
I want to highlight four parts of God’s covenant with David, note two problems that arose, and then look at the connection forward to Jesus Christ.
The Covenant with David
We heard the covenant with David read this morning from 1 Samuel 7:8-16. Like the covenant with Abraham, there are consequences to turning away from God, but God’s promises are not conditional on human behavior, but rooted in God’s faithfulness. So also David and those after him will sin and experience God’s consequences and judgment, but God will not remove or take away His core promises to David, even though it felt like it for an extended time during the Exile that came later. Let me highlight three promises.
- God established an ongoing familial relationship with David and his line – This was specifically framed in father/son language: “I will be his father and he will be my son.” This was quite a change from God as Creator, or the holy name spoken to Moses. It both established God as King of Kings, but also was an intimate and personal description of God that Jesus would later use (in part because of Jesus’ connection to David and this covenant!). It also framed the kingship under the authority of God, which was both the strength behind David’s reign and the problem when later kings abandoned obedience to God.
- The covenant called for reciprocal love. This was two-way relationship – but it was not conditioned on human obedience. If that’s hard to imagine, think of the love between parent and child. The child may disobey or get into trouble, which comes with natural and sometimes parental consequences. But the love of the parent stands firm (at least usually, and always with God!). Sometimes that love even stands behind the consequences. But in the normal course of human events, disobedience or trouble often has consequences, but doesn’t result in “you aren’t my child any more.” I realize there are human exceptions to that, but it helps you understand the distinction. God will not abandon the relationship or His promises, though we may get ourselves into all kinds of trouble that has consequences. David demonstrated this in an extreme way with his double sin of adultery and sending Bathsheba’s husband to the front lines to certain death. There were grave consequences; but God remained faithful and did not turn away.
- God established his house, throne, and kingdom forever. Finally, God established and blessed David’s name, line, house, and rule – his kingdom… FOREVER. Now at once that raises questions like “yes, David was successful, but it wasn’t like Egypt or Persia or the later Roman Empire.” And there’s the bigger question: “well if it’s forever, then where is it now?” Moreover, when the earthly kingdom fell and was defeated and God’s people led off into Exile, it seemed to bring this covenant into question in a big way. We’ll see why that happened and how the promise of an eternal kingdom was fulfilled.
At least two problems developed in the generations after David. I’m taking these descriptions from the book informing our series (The Old Testament in Seven Sentences).
One problem was complacency. The people started worshiping local gods and observing customs of surrounding nations, ceasing to be the distinct and holy people God desired them to be. Perhaps this was because the subsequent kings and people were too confident of God’s blessing. It’s the kind of thing the Apostle Paul cautions against later in regards to God’s grace: since God is gracious, are we free to sin? “May it never be!” he exclaims again and again.
The second problem beyond complacency was failure and disobedience. Most of the kings after David and Solomon were blatantly disobedient and evil. God raises up prophets whose primary job was to remind the people (and kings) of the covenant and call them back to obedience. Those are all the books at the end of the Old Testament. They are all messages about covenant faithfulness or lack thereof.
The end result of the complacency, failure, and disobedience, is that the kings were defeated, the city fell, and the people were taken off into captivity in Babylon. It is there that Psalms are written that cry out “How can this be?!” But the prophets also start looking forward to God’s restoration, to one of the line of David, to a restored kingdom. This is the hope and promise of a newly anointed king, a Messiah (literally “anointed one”).
Of the House of David
Remember those long genealogies at the beginning of Matthew and Luke? Remember the birth story of Jesus, how his parents went to Jerusalem for the census because they were of the house of David? One of the reasons all that is there is to make the real connection between David and Jesus. His parents were descended from David. He is of the royal line, though it’s been many, many generations.
At his baptism and the beginning of public ministry, God’s voice also spoke words, slightly different, but familiar: “This is my Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” And of course Jesus would go on to call God Abba/Father. And Jesus went on to teach and preach about a Kingdom, but it was not an earthly kingdom like many expected. It was the Kingdom of God, truly an eternal Kingdom that would change everything. The whole New Testament, from the Gospel writers to Acts to the letters to Revelation, all understand Jesus to be the King, seated eternally on the throne, and the fulfillment of God’s promise to David.
Why This, Though?
That’s all very fascinating, but why is it such a big deal? Why is David one of the seven main things you should know about the Old Testament, and the covenant with him in particular?
I think the covenant with David is important because it demonstrates several things that are true about God:
God works through fallible humans and human institutions – We passed over Joshua, all the judges, and Saul. Each represented a different system of government. And God spoke and led through each one. And each one was imperfect, even as David and his kingship was imperfect. And yet God worked! Even human sin and disobedience do not shut God down. That is a great comfort since I am one of those fallible human beings!
We are reminded of the tension between obedience and grace – God is gracious, but we are foolish if we become complacent or turn away. There is no better place to be than in the word and will of God. David’s story reminds us of that.
God is working the long game – I don’t mean to suggest that life or salvation is a game, but it’s a phrase that reminds us that God is not de-railed or distracted from His eternal purpose, which is to redeem and heal humanity, the earth, and the nations. David and the earthly kingdom and the covenant and Jesus and the Kingdom are all interwoven.
God also works in the small moments – I wanted to say this right after the “long game” comment because it’s astounding! At the same time that God has the end in mind and is working towards that purpose, He is also intimately involved in our lives and our moments. God’s desire is for us to live obediently and experience the blessings that brings. God hears us when we pray. God cares about the tiny sparrow; how much more does He care for each of us!
Next week we will turn to one of the prophets and look at one of those great calls to covenant faithfulness. The fifth theme comes from the prophet, Micah:
#5 What does the Lord require of you but to do justice,
and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
Some Music Used
- To God Be the Glory
- Better is one Day
- Create in Me (Willow Creek)
- Let Us Be Known
- Go Now in Peace (arr. Bean – Choral Benediction)