2 Samuel 7

Jimmy Jo1 & 2 Samuel, SermonsLeave a Comment

Read the passage here.

Last week, in our study of Samuel, we looked at David’s bringing the ark of the Lord to Jerusalem.  At this point in our story, David is well and truly established as king over all Israel.  As we know, this is the fulfillment of the anointing he received from Samuel.  David, as we know, has not had the easiest time of things, but here he finally seems to be where he’s supposed to be. 

As we should also know, this establishment of David’s kingdom has special significance in the minds of the Israelites.  Here, I’m thinking particularly of the historical perspective of those Israelites in New Testament times.  That is, the post-exilic Israelites in Jesus’ time and in the time of the apostles saw David the king and David’s kingdom as the pinnacle of their history.  Their desire – that is, the desire of those who didn’t understand the ministry and person of Jesus – was that God would bring back David’s kingdom. 

Our passage today has particular significance to that mind-set.  Specifically, today we read about the establishment of God’s covenant with David. 

Just as a quick note, we read 2 Sam. 7:1-17 (God’s covenant with David), but it is also really important and worthwhile to read David’s response (vv. 18-29).  But I’ll leave that with you. 

By way of prolegomena, it’s probably important to talk a little about covenants.  Now I recognize that not everyone here was present, we talked about covenants way back when we worked through Genesis (esp. ch. 15 – God’s covenant with Abraham).  And with apologies with those who weren’t here (and everyone who can’t remember what we talked about – it would be weird if you did), we’re not going to do a deep dive into the topic of covenants.  However, I do want to touch on a few points. 

O. Palmer Robertson (Christ of the Covenants) defines a covenant as “a bond in blood sovereignly administered.”  Now we should probably unpack that a lot more, but Robertson’s main points are that a covenant establishes a life and death bond between participants, and is administered by a sovereign party (that is, it is not a co-equal relationship). 

Robertson and others (though not everyone) view covenants as the primary unifying theme/motif of the bible.  According to this view, there are several defining covenant relationships between God and human beings:  Creation, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, [Priestly], Davidic, and the New. 

The covenants in the bible share similarities with other covenants in the Ancient Near East (ANE).  Primarily, these similarities are primarily around legal structures, requirements, and responsibilities.  However, it would be a mistake to define the biblical covenants in solely legal terms.  That is, while the biblical covenants may be stated (or understood) in legal terms, the concern is primarily about relationships – that is, between God and His people. 

Therefore, it is a mistake to think of a covenant as equivalent to a contract.  A covenant is not a matter of “what you get and what I get.”  A covenant is closer to an agreement regarding how we will live together.  And as a covenant is a bond “sovereignly administered,” it very much describes how we will live in the kingdom of our Lord. 

So a covenant defines the terms of the relationship.  It describes the roles and responsibilities of each party, and also describes the punishment for failure to live up to the covenant. 

Now right away, you will probably notice that the term “covenant” does not appear in this passage.  Neither does the ritual of sacrifices that we see in Genesis 15 (for example – other covenant passages also lack such ceremony).  Nevertheless, this passage does contain many of the elements of a covenant that we might look for.  Moreover, David himself and future biblical writers, clearly understand David as being in covenant relationship with God. 

So, with that (very abbreviated) understanding of covenant in our minds, I want to share a few thoughts about what we see in this passage. 

We begin at the beginning.  And here we note that this episode begins (7:1,2) with David’s desire to build a permanent home for God – that is, a temple.  The historical background to this – as I’m sure you know, and as indicated in God’s response (through Nathan) – is that up to this point, God was worshipped in the tabernacle, essentially a large tent.  For Israel’s entire history, so far, the worship of God took place in a non-permanent structure.  And during their generations of wandering and seeking the promised land, this was the only real option.  But now, they are finally settled, with the true anointed king (that is, David) on the throne.  And David wants to similarly build a permanent home for God.  (Of course it may be worth examining David’s motivations further, especially as his plan does not proceed from any direction by God, but we’ll leave it there for now). 

Now irrespective of David’s plans – one of his first significant actions as king – God has a different plan in mind.  God responds to David’s initiative by saying: 

“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? 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. 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?”’

“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. 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 leadersover 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

2 Samuel 7: 5-11

For our purposes here, the salient texts are God saying, “5b Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?”  and, “11b “‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you”

And I highlight these verses because of the way God, in response to David’s presumably good intentions, immediately reminds David of the proper relationship between God and His anointed.  From vv. 5-11 God reminds (in a fashion typical of ANE covenant forms) David that David and Israel are only where they are because of what God has done for them.  It is only because of the grace and providence of God that David and Israel have a home, have a kingdom, are a nation.  And so, it is not David’s place to build a home for God; it is God who is building a home for Israel. 

In covenantal terms, this immediately calls to mind Robertson’s definition:  a covenant is a bond in blood sovereignly administered.  God is the one who initiates (and ultimately sustains) this relationship.  David (and human beings) do not enter into relationship with God; we are called into relationship with God.

In broader biblical theological terms (though covenant theology is certainly biblical theology), this whole exchange reminds us of the priority of God’s grace, God’s sovereignty, and God’s providence.  And it underscores once again that this is not David’s story, this is God’s story. 

So God is initiating – He is the one calling Israel into relationship; He is the one building a home for His people.  So what does this mean?  To put it another way, what are the terms of the covenant? 

Firstly, it’s worth noting that the covenant God is establishing here has essentially two separate but related parties (or subjects).  That is, God is establishing a covenant with, on the one hand, David; and on the other hand, Israel as a whole.  Again, these are very much related – they can’t truly be separated – but they seem to be very much distinct. 

So what does it say?  Well we might break it down like so: 

9b…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 leadersover 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.’”

2 Samuel 2: 9b – 16

Now what we might say is that there are three distinct elements to the covenant – at least inasmuch as God’s covenant responsibilities are concerned. 

  • David’s name will be made great
  • Israel will have a home/house
  • Israel will have rest from her enemies

However, it is also very much obvious (I think) that these three elements are interrelated.  Essentially, this has to do with kingdom.  Specifically, it has to do with the establishment and endurance of David’s kingdom.  And if we look at vv. 12-15, this is expanded.  Again: 

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.’”

2 Samuel 7: 12-16

David is told that the fulfillment of these covenant promises will not be realized in his own lifetime, but in the life or his offspring, his descendants. 

And at this point it’s important to note that the king functions as a covenant mediator for Israel.  So when God says, “I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever,” the promise is not only for the king, but for the kingdom.  Moreover, when God says, “I will be his father, and he will be my son,” the king as covenant mediator establishes the sonship of all Israel.  It is for this reason that the covenant unfaithfulness of Israel’s king leads to the covenant consequences for all of Israel.  And inasmuch as God’s love will never be taken away from him, God’s love will never be taken away from God’s people. 

Now I bring this to your attention because it is apparent if we are aware of the history of Israel that they do not keep their home – at least their geographic and political home.  Israel’s kings – and therefore Israel – break covenant with God.  They find themselves defeated by their enemies.  And they lose their home and their peace. 

But God keeps His covenant promises.  Not only inasmuch as meting out consequences for covenant unfaithfulness.  But God keeps His very word that, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me,” even in spite of (to some people) the historical situation of Israel.  So what I mean is that God’s covenant word to David is ultimately an eschatological promise to His people.  God’s words ultimately find fulfillment in Jesus. 

This is what we see in the covenants throughout biblical history.  Typically, it’s recognized that there are 5 covenants: 

  • Noahic Covenant:  God will never again destroy the earth
  • Abrahamic Covenant:  I will make you into a nation; I will bless you to be a blessing
  • Mosaic Covenant:  Treasured possession; a kingdom of priests and a holy nation
  • Davidic Covenant:  Your house and your kingdom will endure forever; I will be his father and he will be my son
  • New Covenant:  Fulfillment in Jesus (“a new covenant in my blood”). 

And the point is that, prior to the New Covenant in Jesus, none of the covenants God instituted in scripture are complete in and of themselves.  Or, none of the covenants find fulfillment in the lifetime (or immediate descendants) of those to whom the covenant is delivered.  Rather, the covenant between God and human beings only finds fulfillment in Jesus.  It is only in and through Jesus that the relationship between a holy God and sinful human beings can be finally redeemed.

So what do we do with all of this?  What do we do with this part of the narrative (the story of David)?  Why is this passage, this interaction important?

In short, God initiating a covenant with David reminds us of His unending faithfulness.  This is not just a promise for the future, but reassurance that all of redemption history is in God’s hands. 

One might argue that, at every point along the way (that is, the history of Israel), God’s people failed to live up to their covenant responsibilities.  At every point, Israel takes the grace of God, the providence of God for granted.  However, God never fails in His covenant responsibilities and His covenant promises.  And throughout scripture, God keeps increasing His covenant promises.  And again, this increase of God’s grace, God’s blessings, culminates in the life and death of Jesus Christ. 

What we see in our passage today is that David wants to do something “for God.”  (And we’ll assume that his motives are pure).  After all of his recent successes and accomplishments, this makes sense.  However, God’s response is essentially, “it is not your responsibility to bless God; that is not the nature of our relationship; rather, you will see how much God will bless you.”  God continues to pour out His blessings on an undeserving people. 

And if we read the following verses – that is, David’s response – we can see that he does indeed grasp this basic truth.  It is God’s kingdom that is being built, not David’s.  It is God’s grace that matters, not David’s initiative. 

We are essentially at the halfway point in David’s arc.  We have seen his struggles, we have seen his rise, and we now see him seated on the throne.  However, if we know the David story, we know that in a few short chapters, we will see his biggest fall, his biggest sin.  God knows this too.  Even though David is described as a man after God’s own heart, David is a human being susceptible to temptation, bound to stumble before God.  And yet, God chooses to bless.  God chooses to demonstrate His faithfulness. 

It’s this same God who is at work in our lives.  It’s this same God who is at work in our world, continuing his work of redeeming creation.  We are likewise only halfway through our own stories (regardless of your actual age).  And we have undoubtedly seen struggles and successes, blessing and suffering.  And we may feel like we don’t know how our stories are going to end.  But the truth of the matter – the truth that we need to continue to take hold of – is that the end of our story is sure.  The outcome of our stories is not in doubt.  Because of the completed work of Jesus Christ, God’s purposes for us have been worked out.  God keeps His covenant with us because God alone is faithful. 

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