A Promised Kingdom
When you read the bible, what do you expect to get from it?
2 Samuel Chapter 7 is a profoundly important chapter in the context of the whole bible. God, the creator of all things, chose the descendants of Abraham to experience his special grace. Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, was renamed to Israel and his twelve children became the heads of the nation of Israel. Under Moses, Israel was rescued from slavery in Egypt and under Joshua they were lead into the promised land. They were expected to live there as the people of God in obedience to God’s word as written down by Moses. The book of Judges shows us that this was not going to happen without good leadership. 1 Samuel told the story of the introduction of a king to lead Israel. This king was to lead the nation under the law of God. David is the king that God chose to shepherd the people of Israel.
We’ve read of David being received by the people of Israel in 2 Samuel chapters 1 to 5. He conquered the major city of Jerusalem and took it to be the City of David. He brought the ark of God back, which had been taken by the Philistines, to a Tabernacle organised by David. We have arrived at a moment in the bible story where God’s people are in God’s land under God’s blessing and rule. Although there have been some subtle clues regarding David’s sin, the book has presented David very highly in the eyes of God and of the people. The nation is finally united under a king who is shepherding them in humility, gentleness and peace. This has either got to be the end of the bible story, or there is a twist about to take place.
Read 2 Samuel 7:1-17
After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2 he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”
3 Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”
4 But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying:
5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. 7 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” ’
8 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders h over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.
“ ‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’ ”
17 Nathan reported to David all the words of this entire revelation.
What did you see? (Observation)
- It seems right to build God better quarters (1-3)
- The LORD rejects this reasoning (4-16)
- I have never asked for a house of cedar (4-7)
- I will provide a name for you (8-9)
- I will provide a place and rest for you (10-11)
- I will establish a house for you forever (12-16)
- Nathan reports all to David (17)
It seems right to build God better quarters (1-3)
“After the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him…” We cannot understate the context of this statement. A great deal has lead up to this moment and we read here of the description of blessing from God. If Israel will be humble and walk in obedience before the LORD then this can be their ongoing experience.
“He said to Nathan the prophet…” The bible mentions Nathan a few times in passing but there is no great backstory to tell here. He was a well known prophet of David’s day and clearly part of David’s personal council. It is a grand sign that David had a man of God in his presence to assist in shepherding Israel. Nathan is the same prophet who rebukes David after the sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam 12).
“Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.” You can imagine David standing on a balcony with Nathan the prophet, overlooking the city, breathing in the satisfaction of peace and order, and looking down to see that the ark of God is housed in a tent. It is likely to have been a beautiful tent as described in the book of Exodus – designed by God Himself. There was no disrespect intended by David by housing the ark in what was the Tabernacle. But David sees the problem of being so well housed himself (2 Samuel 5:11). It is a great gesture of love and respect to God.
“Nathan replied to the king, “…go ahead and do it…” It seems like a no-brainer. What a great idea. We have a prophet here giving David the OK so we may feel like this is good. And yet, we might remember that David had the plan to go and get the ark of God and bring it back but it didn’t go as well as he’d planned initially. He needed to learn humility. Nonetheless, Nathan says, do it! It seems like an obvious decision.
The LORD rejects this reasoning (4-16)
The response from God is plain: you don’t build me a house – I am the house builder and I will build you a house. There is a little play on words as both house and dynasty are related words. While David is talking about building with cedar, Yahweh is talking about establishing a kingdom for David that will never end. He stripped the kingdom from out of Saul but he will not do that for David. This word from the LORD to Nathaniel is often referred to as the Davidic Covenant.
I have never asked for a house of cedar (4-7)
“…the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying…” Hebrews 1:1 says that in the past God has spoken to our ancestors through the prophets in various ways. Our God is a God who speaks. This is a tremendous relief to us all! Without His words to this world we would be in the dark. Hebrews 1:2 says that it gets better because He has spoken to us now through His own Son. While God can still communicate in any way He chooses today, it is the norm for God to speak to the world today, via the people of God through the written word of God. This is not the space for a full exposition on ‘the Word of God’ but the beginning and end of this story speaks of the revelation from God to Nathan. God’s full revelation is found in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. No new word from God is needed.
“…my servant David…” Used here in Verse 5 and in Verse 8. The theme of God’s message is that He is the one building and establishing and David’s kingdom is a product of the sovereignty of God.
“Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?” God will have an upgrade from the Tabernacle to the Temple but not by David. It will be Solomon who builds the Temple. But the answer is not simply a “not yet” answer. He continues to make the point that He is not subject and dependant on David but the other way around. The familiar theme of Living God versus dumb idol appears again here. He is not a dumb idol that man needs to build and carry around, but he is the creator and redeemer.
“…I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt…I have moved with all the Israelites…I commanded [rulers] to shepherd my people…” Verses 5-7 highlight that Israel is only a people because God established them. He redeemed them, he dwelt with them, he established leaders over his people. The story of Israel out of Egypt is the gospel of the Old Testament. Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers give the context of this statement.
“…did I ever say…”Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”” God designed and prescribed to Israel what the Tabernacle ought to look like. He instructed Moses on how to make it and the people under Moses’ instruction built the tent-like Tabernacle. The people did exactly as God had described it and God blessed the people by ‘dwelling’ in that tent. David’s good desire to honour God with a cedar Temple is stopped by God because God has not ever asked for this. This taps into a major theme in the bible that we need to pay attention to: we do not design the way in which we worship and honour God but He describes how we are to approach and worship Him.
I will provide a name for you (8-9)
“I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel.” This parallels what God said in Verse 6. Just as God brought Israel up out of Egypt, he brought David up from his small role as a shepherd of sheep and made him the king of Israel. God established Israel. God established David as the king of Israel. They are not David’s people but God’s people. While David has not sinned by suggesting that he build God a better house, God wants David to keep in clear mind who is the LORD Almighty and who is a shepherd boy made king.
“I have been with you…and I have cut off all your enemies…” David has been a legendary fighter but he has always maintained that it is Yahweh who continually delivered him from the enemy (2 Samuel 4:9; 5:19). This story began with the summary of peace over David’s kingdom from all his enemies and it will become a further promise in Verse 11.
“Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth.” The promises from God to David very much reflect the promise from God to Abram (Abraham). Firstly, that his name would be great. King David’s name is certainly great in the bible. His kingdom was legendary and the benchmark of all kings to follow.
I will provide a place and rest for you (10-11)
“And I will provide a place for my people Israel…” The second promise also echoes the promises made to Abraham. The Promised Land is not only a present reality for David but continues to be part of the promise for the future of Israel. What we see in this Davidic Covenant is not a new covenant but the old one repeated and David’s ancestors being the ones through whom this promise is fulfilled – forever.
“Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did…” Israel, of course, has been in the Promised Land since the days of Joshua. In fact, there was a declaration in Joshua 21:45 that all of God’s promises had been fulfilled. But the enemy kept invading and tempting Israel to turn their back on Yahweh. Unlike previous leaders of Israel (the judges), David’s dynasty will see peace. Now, we begin to wonder how this will be fulfilled. Any reader of the bible knows that this does not happen. David’s son Solomon enjoys peace in his time but then the next generation and all who follow experience hostility. God’s promise to David is to be expected to occur firstly under David but then ultimately under Jesus who is the only king who can fulfill this promise. The word of Yahweh to Nathan continues to blend between an earthly fulfillment and an eternal one through Christ.
“…rest from your enemies.” Peace in Israel is a sign of God’s blessing upon them.
I will establish a house for you forever (11b-16)
“…the LORD himself will establish a house for you…” As already stated, David’s initiative to build a house for God is met with this reply: you are not the house builder for God, God is the house builder for David. The word house has a double meaning: wood or bricks as well as family or dynasty.
“When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors…” Death is still a problem that the bible hasn’t resolved yet. Even the promised king of God’s people will face it. Rest is promised however. We don’t get a full theology of the resurrection until after the ‘third day’ in the gospels. The idea of life after death was not printed in clear ink but Jesus was able to rebuke the Sadducees for their disbelief in the resurrection by using the Old Testament.
“…I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom.” David need not worry about the future of his kingdom since God will continue to carry it and strengthen it. God’s promise turns immediately to David’s very next generation. It will be his son who builds the house.
“He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” God moves from the promise of making David’s name great to promising that David’s son will make a house for God’s name. His character and love and devotion will be on the Temple that Solomon builds (1 Kings 9). But the promise is obscure as we know that his throne does not last forever. The offspring of David does continue and his throne is recorded for generations but it isn’t until we see Jesus establish His eternal kingdom that we understand the twist to this story and the greatest promises of God fulfilled completely and without end in the Messiah. Jesus is the fulfilled King who is the suffering servant and king of the Jews. This ambiguity between Solomon and Jesus continues in Verse 14.
“I will be his father, and he will be my son.” God has not referred to David as His son. Solomon will be more than David’s son but will be treated by God as his own son. This is an extraordinary promise. When has such a promise been declared before! And yet we carry this very invitation through Christ. Only because of the blessings that God gives to us and not on any presumptuous attitude we might imagine. That is, we cannot presume that God is for us and yet he comes to us to call us his children. And this because he first provided us with the Son whom He loves.
“When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men…” The throne of David will go on but not without consequences. Future kings will be disciplined with the rod of other nations. Even the Messiah will receive the rod although that will not be for wrongs He has done but wrongs of others that He takes on himself.
“But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul…” Here is the key to understanding this promise at the basic level. While God regretted crowning Saul and removed the kingdom from him, God is vowing to keep it in the house of David forever.
“Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” The promise again is for a dynasty that will never have God’s face turned away. So where is this promise now? It is established firmly in the life of Jesus Christ. He is the ‘forever king!’ He is the fulfillment of every promise that God has made.
Nathan reports all to David (17)
“…all the words of this entire revelation.” We’re reminded that this is God’s speech to a man of God and his responsibility is to speak every word just as it has been given. The Word of God has come to us in the Lord Jesus Christ. He commanded his disciples to go and tell the world everything that they have heard and seen and make disciples of all nations. We speak because God first spoke to us. We speak only what we have been given.
What did we learn? (Meaning)
God’s promises to Abraham (of a great name, a place and blessing) is reaffirmed under the kingdom of David. But God reminds David that the kingdom will forever be built by God and not by man. David will not build a house for God but God will build a house for David. Just as Israel is redeemed and blessed because of God’s grace to them, so too David’s house. The eternal kingdom of God is found in the Lord Jesus Christ who is God’s Son, who came to dwell with men, to place His name in our hearts and to bring us peace and rest. Jesus is the forever king.
Now what? (Application)
Topic A: The difference between good intentions and God’s plans. David had a great plan to honour God in this time of peace and rest. It seemed good to him and it seemed like a good idea to Nathan the prophet. But God’s revelation focused on how He is the kingdom builder. Sometimes churches get mistaken for charity providers. The idea is that churches are only good in society in as much as they support those in need. While charity work is wonderful, it is not the primary purpose of the church. Making disciples by retelling the gospel is the first point of a church. In making plans for your own life, how can you distinguish between a good thing and a God thing? What plans does God see for your life? Is it a life of riches without suffering?
Topic B: Jesus is the King who brings peace. Many people read the bible looking for the golden rules for life, or assurance that what we are doing is fine or at least on the right track but miss the big picture of the bible. The message is that it is all done in Christ. The forever king has been established and it’s not you or me – it’s Jesus. The bible does not give us clues to work out how to do life better but to find Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. So, it’s not we who build a kingdom for God but God who has already built the kingdom and welcomes us in.
Topic C: The entire revelation of God is in our hands. The prophet Nathan was given revelation from God specifically meant for David’s ears and which has made its way into the bible for our benefit. It makes up part of a whole story which we now have the beginning, middle and end. The revelation from God to this world is complete. The book is written and we have it in our hands. The joy of reading the bible is seeing how it all pieces together and draws us in to the end. The revelation of God to the world is that Jesus is King and one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is LORD.