December 18 – 2 Samuel 7:1-17
Main focus: Jesus is the greater David and his kingdom will stand for all eternity.
This week is our last shadow-figure of Jesus; we’ve looked at Adam, Isaac, and Joseph, and now we turn to David. Specifically we’ll look at 2 Samuel 7:1-17 and what’s known as the Davidic Covenant. Here God promises to bring from David’s physical descendants a king who would establish David’s throne forever: Jesus.
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We’ll skip over much of David’s story, his earlier successes and foibles as well as his later transgressions (ex. Bathsheba, 2 Sam 11). However, this all lies at the backdrop of the connection between David the shadow and Jesus the reality. David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14), deeply concerned with holiness and God’s ways (Psa 19:7-11). He was, at times, a good king, ruling God’s people well and establishing an era of peace. But both his limited goodness and his crippling disobedience point to the need for a greater, perfect King to come, a king the Bible is still anticipating even while David was on the throne, as we see here.
Once David’s capital city, Jerusalem, and national borders were all established and settled, David sought out to do what every other Ancient Near Eastern king did in these circumstances, to build a temple for his god. And at first the prophet Nathan approves; given David’s track record he can say definitively “the Lord is with you” (2 Sam 7:3).
But the Lord sends a word of clarification through Nathan that, while he certainly is with David, he has other plans for this temple. As we’ll observe in discussion, God emphasizes that, up till now, he himself has been responsible for all the good that has happened to Israel and to David, and he has future things in store too. There’s some interesting Hebrew wordplay throughout this passage that centers around the word for house. Once David was settled into his palace, which he calls a house, he vows to make a house (temple) for God. But God counters this proposal and instead promises to make for David a house (dynasty) that would last for eternity and to give David an heir who would make a house (temple) for God. This wordplay helps highlight the way David’s tiny plan to build a dinky little building is dwarfed by God’s plan for an eternal kingdom.
Now, when you read this passage predicting the Davidic heir, one of David’s own offspring who would build a temple for God and would disobey and be chastised for his sin, you might think more immediately of David’s son Solomon, and you’d be right. Solomon will take over the throne after David’s death (1 Kings 2), will build the temple David never got to see (1 Kings 7-8), and will commit idolatry (1 Kings 11). But that’s not the only heir this passage references.
One of the amazing things about God’s control over the future is his ability to create multiple horizons of fulfillment with any prophecy. Take for instance the Psalm about the Davidic Covenant, Psalm 89: “Of old you spoke in a vision to your godly one and said…‘I have found my servant David…his offspring shall endure forever.’” But then it turns to lament, “You have renounced the covenant with your servant; you have defiled his crown in the dust.” (Psa 89:39). Is this talking about the fall of the Davidic throne when Israel was taken into captivity? Or is it talking about Jesus, the Davidic heir, hanging on the cross?
The answer is both, just like 2 Samuel 7 is speaking both of the next immediate Davidic heir, Solomon, and the final Davidic heir. Jesus will be revealed to be God’s own son, will establish God’s kingdom, build a temple for God not out of stones but out of people (Eph 2:22), and be punished for iniquity without losing God’s covenant love.
And we even see an added hint of how God intends to deal with his people incarnationally. He points out to David that ever since he ransomed Israel from Egypt he has moved about with them, condescending to dwell in a tent (i.e. the Tabernacle) because his people lived in tents too. John 1:14 illuminates the implication for us, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt [literally “tabernacled”] among us.” God’s aim has always been to be with his people fully and finally, despite their distance from him due to sin, and he did all it took to dwell with us in our same state.
We’ll wrap up discussion looking at what the promise of Jesus’ eternal kingdom stirs up in us and how this leads us to worship Jesus. Christmas is perhaps an odd time to look at the disappointments of earthly kingdoms and to long for a heavenly one, to feel in this world like pilgrims and migrants, but there’s actually never a better time. At Christmastime, while earthly kingdoms lull us into a false sense of security, while corporations and ads promise full-bellied dreams of material bliss, it might even take extra work to snap out of the reverie, to remember that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:20).
• Could someone read 2 Samuel 7:1-17 for us?
• What stood out to you from the passage?
• How does this passage describe what God has done for Israel and for David?
• How does it describe God’s future plan for David’s throne?
• Look at verse 7—why do you think God was interested in “moving around” with the people of Israel?
• How do you think Jesus fulfills the expectations of this passage? (You can also turn to Luke 1:26-33 to see this connection.)
• When you think about this promised eternal kingdom, what does that stir up in you?
• How can this passage help us worship Jesus this Christmas?