August 28, 2023
“When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall 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. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.”
2 Samuel 7:12-16
I remember one of my seminary professors exhorting us: “2 Samuel 7 is one of those passages that you simply must know where it is.” Why did he say so?
Within the Old Testament, 2 Samuel 7 is one of the high points, the account of God establishing his covenant with David. What God had been doing since Genesis 3, what he had renewed after Noah left the ark, what he had advanced by calling Abram to become Abraham, what he had furthered via Moses: all that now took its next, wonderful step in God establishing the Davidic kingship for all time.
David had wanted to build God a house. That was what great leaders in the ancient world did: they built a temple for their god and a palace for themselves. But God was having none of it. The prophet Nathan had intervened with a surprising message, that God did not want David to build him a house. Instead, in a supremely gracious move, God would build a house for David. The focus was not on a building, though; it was on his descendants, the kingly line.
Immediately, that would be Solomon, one who would receive God’s discipline for his sins (1 Kings 11:1-11) but even so, one whose line would never be rejected, as Saul’s had. Yet, by the time of the exile it seemed God had done exactly that – rejected the Davidic line. Psalm 89:18-37 reflects on the promises of 2 Samuel 7, and yet the psalmist follows with verses 38-39: “But now you have cast off and rejected; you are full of wrath against your anointed. You have renounced the covenant with your servant; you have defiled his crown in the dust.”
What could be the answer? The covenant with David seemed broken beyond repair, permanently ruptured. But there had to be an answer. Otherwise, how could God have said to David that his throne was to be established forever? The answer had to be that God would do it.
David’s descendants had transparently failed, shattering their covenant with God. And if God had judged David’s line breaking its kingship, then God would have to renew David’s line. And amazingly, God did that by coming as part of David’s line. The angel Gabriel declared, “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 forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32-33)
Brothers and sisters, we in the PCA are just a small piece of the enormous fruit of that promise, a small piece of that kingdom which will fill the earth and never end. We have not built a house for God any more than David did. God has done great things for us.
Solomon got distracted by other loves, loves that turned his heart away from God. May we remember what Solomon ultimately forgot: that God was the one who built his house, that he has brought us in, and that we flourish because of him, not our own talent or riches or wisdom or anything else. The next fifty years will be great if we rest in him.
William Fullilove serves as the Executive Pastor of McLean Presbyterian Church and as the Professor of Old Testament and Dean of Students at Reformed Theological Seminary, New York City.