God's Covenant with David
From Gospel Translations
By John Piper
About The Covenants
Part of the series The Biblical Covenants
2 Samuel 7:4-17
The reason God's covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David ought to increase the joy of our faith is that in all of them the main point is that God exerts all his omnipotence and all his omniscience to do good to his people, and we are that people if we follow Christ in the obedience of faith. The most practical truths any Christian can know are that God is all-powerful, all-wise, and all for you. Nothing will have a more important practical impact on the way you use your money, spend your leisure, pursue your vocation, rear children, deal with conflict, or handle anxiety. Heartfelt confidence that the sovereign God is working everything together for your good out of sheer grace affects every area of your life.
The deep emotional assurance that, even though you are a sinner, God's attention is focused on you with omnipotent mercy is the day-to-day power to give you deep peace even though you can't go home for Christmas, genuine joy even though you can't afford to buy her that special gift, and loving warmth even though you don't hear from the friend you counted on. When you rest in the fact that God's job description includes the responsibility of seeing that everything in your life turns out for your good, then your heart will not yield to covetousness or stealing or returning ridicule for ridicule; and you won't hold back from telling your colleagues this week what Christmas really means to you.
God's Covenants: His Self-Written Job Descriptions
The reason we study the covenants is because in them we see the biblical proof that God's job description does indeed include the responsibility to withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly, and to work for those who wait for him, and to turn every strep throat and stripped clutch and stinging put-down for our eternal good. That's what I would offer as the definition of God's covenants: when God makes a covenant he reveals his own job description and signs it. In almost every case he comes to the covenant partner, lays his job description out and says, "This is how I will work for you with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength if you will love me as I am, cleave to me, and trust me to keep my word."
The reason I say this is the condition in almost every case is that there is at least one covenant which has no condition at all, the one with Noah. The job description God writes for himself is never again to wipe out the world by a flood but to preserve the course of nature until the very end. The reason we know this covenant has no condition attached to it is that God made it with the animals as well as man: "This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you" (Genesis 9:12). You can't require faith from a frog. All you can do is say, "Frog, here is what I plan to do for you." But in every other covenant which God makes he presents his job description and tells his covenant partner that he only works for clients who trust him and who do the sorts of things you do when you trust somebody to take care of you.
Today we look at God's covenant with David.
- First, we will try to understand 2 Samuel 7:12–17.
- Then, we will see how the covenant promise is fulfilled.
- Finally, we will apply all this to our lives today.
God's Covenant with David
2 Samuel 7:12–17 does what a lot of prophetic passages do: it takes an extended telescope of events and collapses it down so that the near and distant events are viewed together. For example, in these six verses God promises on the one hand that Solomon, David's son, will reign in David's place and will build a house for God. This is why verse 14 can say, "When he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but I will not take my steadfast love from him as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you."
An Everlasting Throne and Kingdom
But the promise goes far beyond Solomon and his imperfection. Verse 13 says, "He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever." Verse 16 says, "And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever." Three times the words "for ever" appear. No wonder this covenant was central to Israel's hope: when God promises to do something for ever, all of eternity is being shaped.
We know from verse 12 that God intends for David to die. Yet verse 16 says: "Your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established for ever." This must mean that the kingdom of David would be established and secured by a descendant. But Solomon is depicted as a sinner who has to be chastened. The kingdom can never be secure in the hands of a sinner. Look at what God does in 1 Kings 11:11–13 after Solomon marries foreign women and worships their gods: "The Lord said to Solomon, 'Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.'" This shows that the promise to establish David's kingdom cannot happen as long as the descendants of David are rebellious and disobedient.
The Hope for David's Righteous Son
The conditionality of this covenant is repeated again and again in Kings and Chronicles. For example, in 1 Kings 2:4 David tells Solomon that God said, "If your sons take heed to their ways, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail you a man on the throne of Israel." This means that as long as David's sons are disobedient the kingdom cannot be made secure for ever. Then look at 1 Kings 8:25 where Solomon prays, "Now, Lord God of Israel, keep with thy servant David my father what thou hast promised him, saying, 'There shall never fail you a man before me to sit upon the throne of Israel if only your sons take heed to their way to walk before me as you have walked before me.'" (See also 1 Kings 6:11, 12; 9:4–9; 1 Chronicles 22:8–13; 28:1–10.)
Israel learned over the centuries following David and Solomon that disobedience in her king always brought the nation to ruin. But the godly among them knew one thing for sure: God had promised that the throne of David would be established forever (2 Samuel 7:4). So they came to see that a son of David must be coming who would fulfill the conditions of the covenant, sit on David's throne, and rule forever. A succession of imperfect kings could never fulfill the promise. If God were true to his word, if he stuck by his job description in 2 Samuel 7, he would have to raise up a righteous, obedient son of David to take the throne (see Psalm 89:29–37).
God's Own Intervention
This is just what Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel promised he would do. Ezekiel looks to the future salvation of God's people and speaks God's word (in 37:23f.): "I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them and they shall be my people and I will be their God. My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall have one shepherd" (see 34:23). Jeremiah stresses that the coming king will fulfill the condition of righteousness (in Jeremiah 23:5–6): "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: 'The Lord is our righteousness'" (see 33:21, 25–26). But it was Isaiah who saw the glory of the Son of David more clearly than anyone and virtually identified him as God (in 9:6–7): "For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called 'Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.' Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore." So the surety of the covenant with David lies ultimately in the fact that God himself will come as king and sit upon the throne. When a covenant is conditional and yet is also certain, you can be sure God himself will intervene to fulfill the conditions.
The Promises to David Fulfilled
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary in Luke 1:31–33, he said, "Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Therefore, beyond any shadow of a doubt the Bible teaches that the promise to David that his descendant would rule forever is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. As the Son of David (Romans 1:3) and the Lord of David (Matthew 22:45; Psalm 110:1) Jesus now reigns as king in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:25) over the true house of Israel.
Do Gentiles Benefit from the Davidic Covenant?
But the question we must raise is: what does all that have to do with us Gentiles? Isn't the covenant with David only relevant for the nation of Israel? Isn't the fulfillment of that promise simply Christ's millennial reign over the redeemed nation of Israel? The answer of the Old Testament and New Testament is a resounding NO! The reign of Jesus as Davidic king has a direct relevance for us Gentiles today.
The Decision of the Jerusalem Council
Consider Acts 15:14–18. You recall that at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 the issue was whether Gentiles had to be circumcised in order to be saved. The apostles saw themselves as heirs of the Old Testament promise to Israel: the Messiah, Son of David, had come; he had died for Israel's sin and had been raised from the dead; he ruled in heaven and was coming again to judge and reign on earth. The big question was: could Gentiles benefit from all this without becoming Jews through circumcision? At the Jerusalem Council Peter told how the Gentiles had received the Spirit just like the Jews had (15:8). Paul and Barnabas told of their success among the Gentiles. Then James dealt the final blow to Jewish exclusivism in 15:14–18 with a reference to the Davidic covenant and its relation to Gentiles: "Simeon [Peter] has related how God first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, as it is written [quoting Amos 9:11], 'After this I will return and I will build the dwelling of David which is fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up, that the rest of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name.'"
David's Worldwide Kingdom
This means that when God said to David in 2 Samuel 7:16, "Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure before me forever," he had in view a house and a kingdom much greater than Israel. The reason the Davidic covenant is relevant for 20th century American Gentiles is because God's job description which he revealed to David included not just the responsibility to establish a righteous ruler in Israel forever, but also to put that ruler over the church and then over all the world. Isaiah said, "Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end." It will be worldwide. And the angel says in Revelation 11:15, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever." When God has completed all the responsibilities in his job description, the house of David will be planet earth. And the subjects of the king will not just be Jews but people from every tongue and tribe and nation (Revelation 7:9).
The Church's Mission Today
The mission of the church today is to submit ourselves to the Son of David who right now rules invisibly from heaven until he puts every enemy under his feet. And our mission is to announce the good news to people in every neighborhood and every nation that they can be happy subjects of Christ's kingdom forever if they transfer their allegiance from the kingdom of this world to the kingdom of Christ.
To put it another way, personal holiness means learning the attitudes and customs of a new kingdom—the kingdom of Christ. And personal evangelism means telling people that the rightful king of the world against whom they have rebelled is willing to grant amnesty to all who return and live under his rule. Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the eternal King of the world will come from heaven and establish a reign of joy and righteousness and peace over all his loyal subjects forever and ever. And until he comes, the worldwide mission of the church is to extend complete, free, universal amnesty to people from every nation.
I close with an invitation for you to make God's covenant with David a covenant with you. It's not just my invitation. It's God's. Turn to Isaiah 55:1–3. The point of this invitation is that the very sovereignty and wisdom and love of God which assured David of an eternal kingdom can also assure you of God's eternal kindness as a part of that kingdom. Listen: "Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Hearken diligently to me and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in fatness. Incline your ear and come to me; hear that your soul may live; andI will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast sure love for David." The very mercy and faithfulness that guarantees David an eternal kingdom can guarantee you all the joy and righteousness and peace of that kingdom. God is saying to you this morning: if you will come to me empty-handed and hungry, willing to receive what I give, then I will write for myself in your presence a job description and bind myself with an oath to treat you forever with the same mercy and faithfulness that I have demonstrated in my covenant with David.
And listen to the entreaty of the Lord Jesus himself in the last chapter of the Bible (Revelation 22:16f.): "I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright and morning star . . . let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price." Come to the Son of David, come to the King of kings, and he will sign with his own blood your personal copy of the job description he has written for himself—to be God to you. And he will give it to you as an eternal covenant, never to turn away from doing you good.