Posted by: stpowen | December 22, 2009

The Covenants, Part VI- The Davidic Covenant

The Covenants Part VI.  The Davidic Covenant.

Read 2Sam 7; 23:1-7; Psalm 89:1-37.

God’s covenant with David seems to be somewhat ignored these days.  It is the Abrahamic and Sinaitic covenants that receive more attention.  But in the New Testament, it is the Seed promised to David who is at the centre of the hopes of God’s people.

In Luke 1:32-3 and 68-70,we are told that the coming King is born into the line of David, though at this stage, the promises to Abraham are given equal prominence (1:55, 73; Matt 1:1).

In our Lord’s ministry, it seems that to acknowledge Him as Son of David is a key to receiving blessings.  The Pharisees who call Him, ‘Teacher’ receive short shrift, and even the Rich Young Ruler who kneels before Him and calls Him, ‘Good Teacher’ leaves Him ‘sorrowing.’  But those who persistently call upon the Name of Son of David receive an answer to their prayers.

The Canaanite woman (Matt 15:22).  “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!”                                                                                                                                        Blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:47-8).  “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

The reason for this is found in 1John 5:1:  ‘Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.’  The Son of David is revealed in Scripture as the ‘Christ’ or ‘Messiah’ (literally, ‘Anointed One’) and eventually as the true God (Jer 23:5-6)’  Only those who are born of the Spirit of God can recognize this (1Cor 12:3b).

At His triumphal entry to Jerusalem, Our Lord is acknowledged as the Son of David, and on the Day of Pentecost, Peter speaks not of the promises to Abraham, but of those to David (Acts 2:25-36).  Paul, in his preaching also, refers to the Son of David and to the ‘Messiah’(Acts 13:22-23; 17:3).  In the closing verses of the Bible, the Lord Jesus testifies of Himself;  “I am the Root and Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star” (Rev 22:16).

The Davidic covenant comes out of the failure of the Sinaitic covenant, though let it be said at once that the fault was not in the covenant itself but in the people who could not keep it (Acts 7:53; Rom 8:3; Heb 8:7-8).  The people were warned in Judges 2:7-12 that they had failed to keep their side of the covenant, and later chapters show just how far they could fall.  In the story of Micah and his mother in Judges 17-18, we see the atrocious state of ignorance and idolatry to which Israel had come and in 19:22 we observe that the very sins that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah were current among the Israelites.  The Book of Judges ends with a solemn word of condemnation:  ‘In those days there was no King in Israel;  everyone did what was right in his own eyes.’  Yahveh should have been their King, but the Israelites had failed to honour Him as such.  The nation was ripe for judgement.

1Samuel opens with the land still in this condition.  The High Priest, Eli, is an ineffectual fool and his sons viciously wicked.  When Eli sees Hannah praying in the Tabernacle, so unusual is this activity that he thinks she is drunk.  We learn from 1Sam 3:1 that, ‘The word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation.’   The result , of course, is the judgement of God and disastrous defeat for Israel  (1Sam 4:10-11).  Just as in our own times, it is God’s way to allow matters to reach a desperate state before He acts.  In the midst of the degradation of Israel, we find Hannah’s Song (2:1-10),and in its last verse we find the first occurrence in the Bible of the word, ‘Messiah’ (1).

At this time, God raised up Samuel, the last and greatest of the judges.  No one since Moses played a greater role, under God, to return Israel to the Lord.  We read of a great revival in 1Sam 7:2b-6 and renewed blessing from Yahveh (vs7-14).  Yet, by the end of Samuel’s rule, the Israelites were hankering after a king.  They were seeking the outward pomp of royalty rather than following the constitution that the Lord had ordained.  They wanted to be like the world (1Sam 8:5).  There is an interesting paradox here:  it was a sin for the Israelites to seek a king, but it was none the less part of God’s great plan.  In the same way, of course, the most evil act ever committed by men, the slaying of the Lord Jesus Christ, was actually ordained by the Father (Acts 2:36; 4:27-8).  True indeed is the saying, ‘Man proposes, but God disposes.’  Yet because of their sin, the first king that God provided for Israel was a disaster.  Saul, despite a hopeful beginning, proved himself to be self-willed, jealous and disobedient to God, causing Him to declare,  “I gave you a king in my anger, and took him away in My wrath” (Hosea 13:11).

Saul’s successor was David, the man after God’s own heart (1Sam 13:14; Acts 13:22).  David is an eminent type of Christ;  anointed by the servant of God (1Sam 16:13. cf. Matt 3:13), he nonetheless went through a long period of humiliation and knew what it was to be ‘despised and rejected of men.’  He was a fugitive from Saul for several years until he became king and ushered in to Israel a period of its greatest prosperity.

The first part of David’s reign was spent in defeating the Philistines and other enemies, but then his thoughts were directed to bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, his new capital (2Sam 6) and then to building a ‘house’ or temple for it.  ‘See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains’ (2Sam 7:2).  The prophet Nathan at first tells him to carry on, but then God gives him another message;  David will not build God a house, but God will build one for him (v11).  The word ‘covenant is not used here, but that a covenant was transacted here is made quite clear in Psalm 139:11.

As with the covenant with Abraham, there is a ‘letter’ significance and a ‘spirit’ significance to the Davidic covenant.  “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever’ (2Sam 7:12-13).  The first significance is for Solomon, but the second is for Christ.  The word  ‘forever’ occurs three times in verses 13 and 16.  Also, compare v14a with Heb 1:5.  The throne of David was not established forever.  It only lasted until the ascension of Rehoboam in its full form, and until the time of Nebuchadnezzar in any form.  David knew that the physical dynasty was dependent upon the faithfulness of his physical descendants (1Kings 2:4).  He also knew that the promises pertained to something far greater.  ‘Although my house is not so with God, yet He has made with me an everlasting covenant’ (2Sam 23:5).  He had no illusions about his progeny and knew that the rebellious ones would be thrust away (v6).  He knew that his royal house was as nothing before God, asking, “What is my house, that you have brought me this far?” (2Sam 7:8).  His hopes were rather set upon a ‘Great while to come’ (v19), which he later defines as ‘Forever,’  literally, ‘Days of ages’ or ‘eternity.’

‘For Your Word’s sake……..You have done all these great things’ (v21).  This is the great promise to David’s house.  ‘Word’ refers to the lord Jesus Christ as David knew (Acts 2:30).  It is Christ who will sit upon David’s throne forever.  Read John 19:19-22.  Christ is the King of all the descendants of Abraham.  Who are they?  Believers.  ‘For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh’ (Phil 3:3. cf. Rom 2:28-9; Gal 3:7).  Christ’s Kingly rule will last, not for a thousand years, but forever.  His reign is not future, but present (Psalm 2:6; 110:1-2).  David knew that this descendant of his would be far greater than he.  ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand…..”’ (cf. Matt 22:41-46).  He also knew that the Christ was High Priest as well as King (Psalm 110:4), a thing forbidden to the kings of Israel.  He also knew that this covenant meant redemption:  “For this is all my salvation and all my desire” (2Sam 23:5).

The prophets who came after David also knew that the Davidic covenant spoke of far more than merely the line of the kings of Judah.  ‘There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots’ (Isaiah 11:1).  Though the tree be cut down, yet a branch will grow from the stump.  In v10, we learn that the Branch is also the Root.  Christ was before David even though He is his descendant (cf. Micah 5:2).  Jeremiah goes on to reveal that the Branch is God Himself, ‘The LORD our righteousness’ (Jer 23:5-6. cf. 2Cor 5:21).  In Ezekiel 34, we learn that God Himself will shepherd His people (v11ff), but also that ‘My servant, David’ (v23) will be their shepherd.  Both these prophesies are fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd of John 10.  Amos speaks of the ‘Tabernacle of David’ being raised up to possess ‘All the Gentiles that are called by My name’ (Amos 9:11-12; Acts 15:16-17), so that Peter could declare, “Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days” (Acts 3:24).

Nothing in God’s covenant with David superseded the Sinaitic covenant.  The Mosaic law continued in force undisturbed.  The Davidic covenant is a covenant of promise, like those with Abraham and Noah.  It has no jurisdiction; no one is ‘under it’ in the way that the Israelites were under the law of Moses.  It is simply the promise of a King, of whom David was only a poor type:  a Ruler over all God’s Kingdom; a Shepherd who will seek out the weak and the lost to restore them; a Servant who will do all God’s will and fulfil all righteousness; a great High Priest to offer up the one acceptable sacrifice for sin to God and to intercede forever for His people.  To that tiny remnant of godly Israelites, who knew, as David did, that they could never satisfy God’s holiness by keeping the law (Psalm 32:1-2), to look with the eyes of faith at the covenant with David and its prophesy of the coming Messiah was salvation, the Lord saying, “Incline your ear and come to Me.  Hear and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you- even the sure mercies of David.” (Isaiah 55:3).


(1)  Hebrew Mashiach.  Often translated as ‘Anointed [one].’  Greek, ‘Christ.’


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