2 Samuel 7:1–7, 11b–16, 18–21comment (0)
August 5, 2010
By James Barnette
Related Scripture: 2 Samuel 7:1–7, 11b–16, 18–21
Bible Studies for Life
Associate Professor, Department of Religion, Samford University
Focus on God’s Purposes
2 Samuel 7:1–7, 11b–16, 18–21
Good Intentions (1–7)
As a man after God’s own heart, it comes as little surprise that David wanted to build a house for Him. It troubled David that he was living in a stone house with cedar paneling while the throne of Yahweh resided in a tent. He shared this burden with Nathan, the prophet. Nathan encouraged the king to proceed with the idea of a temple (3). However, since Nathan later received a word from God contrary to what he told David, it seems clear that he spoke without first consulting God in this matter. How often do we enter into a task with good intentions, yet we “jump the gun” because we have not sought God’s leadership on the matter? This chapter contains the section that has come to be known as the Davidic covenant. Old Testament (OT) scholar Walter Brueggemann declared it to be the “theological center” of 1 and 2 Samuel, as well as one of “the most crucial texts in the Old Testament for evangelical faith.” The words recorded here constitute the longest recorded monologue of the Lord since the days of Moses. The very length of the divine declaration highlights its importance.
God’s Intentions (11b–16)
Yahweh proclaimed that David would found the only royal family that He would ever sanction in the generations to come. David would become the source of Israel’s uniquely favored dynastic line. This promise to David of a kingdom that “will endure forever” would become the seed of hope for a nation that had been invaded and broken so many times. The covenant between Yahweh and the house of David became the center around which messages of hope preached by the Hebrew prophets of later generations were built (see, for instance, Isaiah 9:1–7; 11:1–16; Jeremiah 23:5–6; Ezekiel 34:23–24; Hosea 3:5; Amos 9:11; Zechariah 12:7–8). The Lord’s words here play a most critical role among OT passages in shaping the Christian understanding of Jesus. The divine promises proclaimed here through Nathan provide the foundation for at least six significant New Testament (NT) teachings about Jesus: that He is the Son of David, the builder of God’s house, the possessor of the heavenly throne, the Lord over an eternal kingdom, the Son of God and the result of an immaculate conception since He had God as His Father. A most significant word that does not appear in this Davidic covenant is “if.” Up to now, God’s commitments to Israel were regularly conditional. They were governed by the ominous “if” clause: God’s good inclinations were dependent on Israel’s obedience. With David, the “if” disappeared. It was replaced by “but” in verse 15: “But my love will never be taken away.” In this amazing promise, God signed a blank check to the Davidic line and thus shifted the theological foundations of Israel. This shift constituted a foreshadowing of the NT understanding of “justification by grace,” in which the “works” of David and Israel are not decisive in the ultimate destiny of God’s people.
Humble Submission (18–21)
David’s response to this amazing promise of God was awestruck humility. The king entered the holy tent that housed the Ark of the Covenant and “sat before the Lord.” David began with words that we have employed ourselves when in authentic humility, we consider God’s majesty and grace: “Who am I?” Seven times in this speech, David used the phrase “sovereign Lord.” The phrase appeared for the first time in an exchange between the Lord and Abram in which God revealed the blessed future of Abram and his descendants (see Genesis 15). Apparently David viewed this new promise of God in a similar light, realizing the incredible significance of this new covenant. Ten times in his prayer to God, David referred to himself as His servant. The king was following a spiritual tradition of using the socially demeaning term as one of honor. In fact, in the OT, he used this phrase more than any other person (13 times), followed by his son, Solomon (seven times). No doubt David was awestruck by the graciousness of this new covenant offered by God and moved to realize that set against the backdrop of His holiness and grace, we are mere servants at best.