This chapter is perhaps the most important passage in 1&2 Samuel and a key section in the whole of the Old Testament as it reveals the Lord's covenant with David. What's that and what's it to do with us? Well in essence it's the unconditional covenant made by God with David through which God promises David that the Messiah (Jesus Christ) would come from the line of David and the tribe of Judah and would establish a kingdom that would endure forever.
Look at v9-16. Over the next few weeks, in the run up to the General Election, we're going to hear politicians make some promises which will be broken but here through the prophet Nathan, God makes firm and unconditional promises to David - promises about David's name becoming great (v9), about a place (v10) for his people where they'll be afflicted no more, about a house of the Lord which would be initially built by David's son Solomon (v13) and about a house of David - meaning not a home for David but a dynasty, rather like our Royal Family is the house of Windsor. But this dynasty will last forever (v13). Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me. Your throne shall be established for ever (v16). So this is an everlasting covenant which would see the coming of great David's greater Son - Jesus Christ - God the Son, God's chosen King. These promises brought assurance and hope to generations of God's people and were fulfilled in that greater Son, Jesus, who would be the one to bring God's people the security and peace they need. And this chapter doesn't just reveal those amazing promises but also our amazing God, the Promiser.
But before we look further at the promises and the Promiser, I want to ask a question. If you're a Christian do you ever feel a tension when you look around the world today and then think about the promises that God makes in the Bible? Islamic extremists wanting to take over in the Middle East; famine, ebola and civil war in parts of Africa; moral problems in this nation. In the light of all the promises that God makes to his people why do things seem so wrong? Why are there so many diseases, famines and wars? Why do we still have to fight our sin? Why is life just sometimes so hard? Do you ever think that? And do you ever say to yourself, 'I thought being a Christian would solve all my problems'? And we can begin to wonder: will God really keep all his promises? Will Jesus really return as Judge and King? As Israel's history progressed they would have been wondering whether God would keep his promises to David. So first
The Promise of the King
Now when the king lived in his house and the LORD had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, "See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent." (Verses 1-2)
We've reached a high point in Israel's history. V1 says it's a time of peace. Under David, God has granted them victory over all the surrounding nations. But David still has a dilemma. You see here he is living in his nice palace but the Ark of God was still in a tent. The Ark contained the law on stone tablets and lived in the most sacred place of the tabernacle, the forerunner to the temple. The place where God symbolically dwelt with his people. So do you see David's problem? He had a nice house but God didn't.
So he decided to build a house for God. It seemed like a good idea, and even the prophet Nathan thought so (v3). But v4:
... that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, "Go and tell my servant David, 'Thus says the LORD: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?"'
God gives a resounding No to David's plan. David is not to build a house for God. It had seemed like a good idea, with well-intentioned motives. But God has other plans in mind. After all we see from v8-11 it was God who chose David to be king. It was God who gave them the land they dwelt in. It was God who had given them rest from their enemies. Who was David to be so presuming to build a house for God? The sovereign God had other plans.
And sometimes that's the way God acts. We make plans. They seem good plans. Made with good intentions. But sometimes our plans come to nothing, because God in his sovereignty knows better. He has other plans. We had plans for Clayton Academy but God had plans for St Joseph's, Benwell. We may have good ideas that we think will help further God's Kingdom but are they the Lord's? Do we ask him? Do we want to be part of what God is blessing or do we just want God to bless our plans?
Here God's plans are far grander and more important than anything David can think of. As God goes onto to reveal his plan to David he makes some huge promises to him. V11:
"'The Lord declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you"'.
So rather than David building a house for God, God is going to build a house for David. He's not talking about a literal house. He's talking about a dynasty, a line of kings.
So what's this dynasty going to be like? Well we're a told a bit from v12 onwards as to the identity of David's offspring.
1) First of all this heir will be from David's line. From 'his body'. This seems an obvious point to make but as we shall see later it's quite important. And it would have been an important promise to David then. Because after all as verse 15 reminds us the kingdom was taken away from Saul. So it would have been a great comfort for David to know that not only would the throne not be taken away from him but neither would it be taken from his family.
2) Secondly, it's David's heir and not David himself who will build a house for God.
3) Thirdly, as a result of this God will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
4) And finally God will be like a father to him and he will be like a son. And this will include fatherly discipline.
Now its easy for these promises to just wash over us with out really taking in the magnitude of what has been promised here. God has promised to David that his house will last forever and all that that means - for you and me too. It's no wonder then that David responds the way he does in vv18-29. Praising God for his amazing plan. He has complete confidence in what God is going to do.
Now today we're at an advantage because after the first Easter we can see God's plan more fully. Christ has died. Christ is risen. By grace through faith in him we can enter his everlasting kingdom and the best is yet to come. Christ will come again. So do you have confidence in God's promises? Do you believe that God will accomplish all that he says he will? That Jesus will return to wrap up history and take those who are his to be with him for ever? Are you praising God and praying: Come Lord Jesus - which is the last prayer in the Bible (Rev 22:20) - with confidence? And therefore are you witnessing with confidence in the power of the gospel before Jesus returns? Perhaps you need help with that - well why not get a copy of Billy Graham's powerful message - The Cross - on DVD from me tonight and show it to someone. Well, I hope that as we see how God kept his promises to David it will encourage you to trust His promises and to live in the light of them. To trust him - the one true God whom David (v22) calls great, for there is none like him, no God besides him.
The God who has true wisdom. Back in v3 Nathan literally says of David's plan - 'Just do it'. But God's plan was far greater and wiser.
The God who shows perfect humility (v6&7). Who is with us and who does not dwell in houses made by hands as Stephen reminds us in Acts 7. Sam Rayburn was Speaker of the House on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. The teenage daughter of a reporter Rayburn knew died suddenly. The next morning the reporter found Rayburn standing on his doorstep. 'I just came by to see what I could do to help.' The reporter, trying to recover from his surprise, didn't think there was anything the Speaker could do. 'Well, I can at least make the coffee this morning.' Rayburn said. 'But Mr. Speaker, I thought you were supposed to be having breakfast at the White House.' 'Well, I was but I called the President and said a I've a friend who's in trouble, and I couldn't come.'
Now that's only a very pale glimpse of the condescension of the covenant God, the God who won't enjoy rest until he gives his people rest, the God who stoops down to share the hardships of his people, the God who's not ashamed to say he's been 'travelling around in a tent' with them. See how close he is to you! You may be forced to revise your theology if you think God and humility are mutually exclusive. But if you've really paid attention to v6-7 you're not surprised at the attitude of Christ in Philippians 2:5-8. Indeed, you may almost have suspected as much.
The God who is gracious, indeed who insists on grace, grace on top of grace and who has a preoccupation for the security and peace for his people, for you and me (v8-11); and the God who is constant, faithful and enduring and whose kingdom is unstoppable (v12-16). The tone of these verses reminds me of a story about Aeneail Sage, a church minister in my favourite place - the Scottish Highlands. Sage, a powerfully built man, announced his intention to hold a meeting for teaching the people the faith in the house of a certain laird well-known for his own powerful frame and evil living. When Sage arrived at the laird's door, the latter asked why he came. Sage replied, 'I come to discharge my duty to God, to your conscience and to my own'; which the laird met with, 'I care nothing for any of the three; out of my house, or I'll turn you out.' Sage responded, 'If you can.' When the interchange was over the laird was lying on the floor with a rope around his hands and feet. Since the laird was now 'bound over to keep the peace', as Sage put it, the minister called in the people of the area and taught them, no one - of course - refusing! I'm going to hold a meeting in your house and there's nothing you can do to stop it.
God's kingdom plan through David's dynasty is also unstoppable; he will overwhelm death, sin, and time if need be, to bring it about. And he has. The years wore on; everything from foolish failures to blatant wickedness marked the reigns of the Davidic kings; Israel is swept into exile and remains in subjugation to foreign powers. But a child, a Davidic child, is born, a Son is given. In him is no sin. He trampled all over death and has begun his endless reign at the place of supreme power and authority - his Father's right hand!
So to The Fulfilment of the Promise of the King
Who would be the one who would rule them, give them rest from their enemies and would make a house for the Lord's Name. The one who would be an even greater king than David had been? Could it be David's son Solomon? Well Solomon is a partial answer to these promises. The early chapters of 1 Kings tell us that Solomon was a great king. He's certainly from David's line. It's Solomon who builds a temple for the Name of the LORD.1 Kings 8 v20:
Now the LORD has fulfilled his promise that he made. For I have risen in the place of David my father, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the LORD promised, and I have built the house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel.
Yet something's not quite right. For as we read on in the book of Kings all is not as it should be. Within a few chapters of Solomon having built the temple his heart turns away from God. And as a result God disciplines him, as he promised David. He does this by saying that after Solomon's death part of the kingdom will be taken away from the line of David. And for the rest of Solomon's reign he faces rebellion and after his death, just as God promised, the kingdom splits.
So can this really be the big promise that God had made to David? Is this really what drove David to his knees in praise and adoration of his LORD? Of the kings of Judah who followed Solomon we read 'He did evil in the sight of the LORD' again and again. So surely this can't be the fulfilment of the promise, especially when after many years of rebellious kings Judah is taken into exile. David's line is no longer on the throne. Have God's promises been broken? Well look at Luke 1 v31 where the angel Gabriel is telling Mary:
... 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.
This is massive news. The baby Mary was going to have is the promised king. Jesus is the perfect fulfilment of what God promised David 1000 years earlier.
First, he is from the line of David. Jesus was descended from David.
Secondly he will build a house for the name of the Lord. Jesus proclaimed to the Jews in John's Gospel: 'Destroy this temple and I will rebuild it in three days.' Jesus was talking about his body. Jesus was the temple. In Jesus, who is fully God and fully man, God dwelt with his people.
Thirdly, we're told in Luke's Gospel that Jesus' reign will never end, just as God had promised to David. Jesus' kingdom is a never-ending kingdom. What an encouragement that is for us. Never will this kingdom be overturned. Jesus will always be on the throne. He will always rule. He is ruling now.
So what sort of king is Jesus? In John 6 after Jesus had just turned a couple of loaves of bread and a few tins of tuna into a fully satisfying meal for five thousand we read (v15):
Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
You see Jesus was not that type of king. The Jews were expecting a leader like David who'd free them from the Romans. But Jesus wasn't such a king.
So what type of king was he? Well what about the final part of God's promise to David. The bit about God being like a father and the king being like a son. And remember it included fatherly discipline when the king went astray like Solomon. You say surely that can't be speaking about Jesus. After all, he never did anything wrong. Well, that's right. But in 2 Samuel 7 we see a glimpse of the cross. For it was on the cross that God did in fact discipline his son. Because although Jesus was himself without sin, on the cross God viewed Jesus with our sin and so disciplined him instead. He took the punishment we deserve.
So, Jesus was a king who served his people. He was the king who humbled himself and died for his people. But it didn't end there because as promised three days later Jesus did rise from the dead and now he reigns at his Father's right hand. But if Jesus reigns then why do we still feel that tension that I mentioned at the beginning? Why does it appear that so much of the world is not subject to him? Well just as in the reign of king Solomon there was a now but not yet aspect to the promise. It was partially fulfilled but there was more to come. Likewise for us although Jesus is the fulfilment of the promise, He is the promised king but there is still more to come. Because Jesus promises a time when he will return. When everyone will bow the knee at King Jesus and that tension that we feel, that I mentioned at the beginning will finally be resolved.