Fourteen generations after revealing to Abraham the Son of Man would rule the world, God clarified He would not merely be the patriarch of a large tent dwelling family, but the king over a large and prosperous nation who ruled from a splendid city (Rev 3:12). This isn’t to say the previous example was false—just as Abraham had no lasting home or possession in Canaan so too did Christ have nowhere to lay His head (Luke 9:58)—but it is to say that the revelation about His reign was insufficiently splendid. A better frame of reference, a superior one, was required to communicate the idea that Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev 17:14). For this reason God chose the conquering King David to receive a covenant, and to prepare him for it, He spoke the following words through Nathan the prophet:
“I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people, over Israel, and I was with thee whithersoever thou went, and have cut off all thine enemies out of thy sight, and have made thee a great name, like unto the name of the great men that are in the earth. Moreover I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them anymore as before, as since the time that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel, and have caused thee to rest from all thine enemies. Also the LORD tells thee that He will make thee a house” (2 Sam 7:8-11).
Born in Bethlehem, David was an ordinary shepherd boy who was anointed for service by a Levitical priest (1 Sam 16:11, 1 Chron 6:16-29). When he grew older he was wrongly despised by his brothers (1 Sam 17:28) yet he grew in favor in the sight of both men and God (1 Sam 18:5, 2 Sam 5:10) until he became king over all Israel (2 Sam 5:12). He was not a scheming or self-serving king, but one who ruled righteously and did what was just (2 Sam 8:15), a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14). He had compassion on the innocent (1 Sam 23:10, 13). He refused to kill those who sought to put him to death (1 Sam 26:20). When he was driven out and cursed he did not retaliate in turn (2 Sam 16:10), and under his rule the people had rest from their enemies (2 Sam 7:1).
But just as God had arranged Abrahams entire life to model something of the Son of Man’s story, so too did He form and shape David’s experience to make the invisible, spiritual truths of Jesus accessible to us. David lived the life he did because he was a partial copy of the Son of Man–which means by studying the concrete expression of an earthly king we can gain an understanding of the heavenly one. This is why the Scripture says, “But they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them” (Jer 30:9). The point of the preamble is therefore not so much to remind David of God’s faithfulness to him, but to show the world who Christ is.
Jesus was born a nobody in Bethlehem (Mat 2:1), the shepherd of Israel (John 10:11), made ready for service by a Levite (Mat 3:13-17, Luke 1:5). He was wrongly despised and rejected (Is 53:3), particularly by his family (Mark 3:21), yet He grew in favor in the eyes of both God and men (Luke 2:52). He is a King (John 18:37), the king of kings (Rev 19:16), who rules in righteousness (Is 32:1), and in justice (Jer 23:5). He is a man who shares God’s heart in the ultimate sense—not because He has a copy of God’s emotions or concerns, but because He is God (John 10:30). He has compassion on the people, to spare them unnecessary suffering (Mat 12:20). When they took His life He refused to retaliate (Luke 23:34), and when He was cursed He did not revile in turn (1 Peter 2:23). Under His rule there is lasting, eternal, permanent peace (Rom 5:1).
As a side note, Psalm 89:20-24 is the divinely inspired commentary for this covenant, and it too is thick with the idea that Christ is the new and true David, the one who receives the promises. Though it matches the profile of the earthly David, the psalm is clearly speaking of the heavenly David when it says, “I have exalted One chosen out of the people. I have found David My servant, with My holy oil have I anointed Him, with whom My hand shall be established, Mine arm also shall strengthen Him. The enemy shall not exact upon Him, nor the son of wickedness afflict Him. And I will beat down His foes before His face, and plague those who hate Him. But My faithfulness and My mercy shall be with Him and in My name shall His horn be exalted. I will set His hand also in the sea, and His right hand in the rivers. He shall cry unto Me, ‘Thou art My father, My God, and the rock of My salvation.’ Also I will make Him My firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for Him for evermore, and My covenant shall stand fast with Him. His seed also will I make to endure forever, and His throne as the days of heaven.”
It is Jesus who was anointed (Acts 10:38) and exalted to the highest place (Phil 2:9). He was strengthened by God in His time of need (Luke 22:43). His enemies do not trouble Him, for God has cast them down (John 12:31) and made them into His footstool (Luke 20:43). God is faithful to Him (Acts 2:27), and has exalted His name (Ps 118:16). He set Him above the nations which churn like waters (Ps 29:10), for He is the true son of God (Mat 14:33), the firstborn (Col 1:18), the one who is higher than any other (Ps 95:3). He is the rock of our salvation (1 Cor 10:4). God’s mercy is with Him and the people who He calls His children will endure forever (Rom 8:38-39). It’s no surprise then that words of the covenant God made with David is also about Him:
“I will set up thy Seed after thee, who shall proceed out of thy loins, 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 His father, and He shall be My Son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men, but My mercy shall not depart away from Him, as I took it from Saul whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee, thy throne shall be established forever”(2 Samuel 7:12-16).
These words might look like they’re speaking about David’s son Solomon, since “Solomon sat upon the throne of David his father and his kingdom was greatly established” (2 Kings 2:12), and Solomon said of himself, “[the Lord] has established me, and set me on the throne of David my father, and hath made me a house as he promised” (1 Kings 2:24). Further, God loved Solomon before he was born (1 Sam 12:24), and gave him exceptional wisdom (1 Kings 4:30) and riches to such an extent that silver “was not anything accounted of in the days of Solomon” (1 Kings 10:21) so that he could build God’s temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 6:37-38). Moreover, the final components of the prophecy seem to fit better with Solomon than Jesus, for the Lord punished Solomon for his stubborn waywardness (1 Kings 11:11) by taking away his joy, yet even so He never took His mercies from him, and before he died God moved him to repent of his wickedness (Ecc 12:13).
But God’s covenants are more than earthly, man centric statements facts. They’re words of life, messages which unveil Christ, the God we were created to know. That these verses appear to be fulfilled by Solomon is an incidental effect of his being made after the image of Christ, for they really concern Jesus the seed of David, the “Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David” (Rev 5:5). God has established Him as King (Rev 11:15). Like Solomon who led no armies but instead built a house for God, the true son of David is a builder (Mat 16:18), but unlike Solomon who built with inert masses of rock, Jesus builds His temple with living stones (1 Peter 2:5). He is in the fullest sense God’s son, for He proceeds from Him, being from all eternity begotten not made (Ps 2:7). He is the wisest man who ever lived, the one men marveled at (John 7:46) and traveled across the world to find (Mat 2:1). He was chastised by the rod of the Jews (Mark 14:65), and the stripes of the Romans (John 19:1) because of sin, yet it was not His own sin (Luke 23:4) but ours which He freely bore (1 Peter 2:24). And though God punished Him terribly because of our rebellion, He never took His mercy away—which is why He sits even now upon the throne of heaven (Ps 89:4).
That this covenant is about Christ is asserted by David himself when he says, “You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord GOD!” (2 Sam 7:19, ESV), and “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, the scepter of Thy kingdom is a right scepter. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness, therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows” (Ps 45:6). David understood this wasn’t a promise to make one of his sons successful at ruling an earthly kingdom, it was a description of the Divine Savior, The Son of Man, the One who is King over all. It was also not given to his family alone, but to all mankind, because it adds to the sum total of knowledge humanity had received about Him. As David also said in 2 Sam. 23:5, “Although my house be not so with God, yet He has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure, for this is all my salvation, and all my desire.” This is an even more explicit affirmation of the truth that this covenant was principally an objective revelation of Christ, for would David have used such words to speak of a temporary blessing or earthly deliverance given that he already enjoyed rest from his enemies? No. David knew this promise spoke of the One who was to come, whose death, burial, and resurrection would save him from sin. As Peter said, “Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his loins—according to the flesh—He would raise up Christ to sit on his throne, he saw beforehand and spoke of the resurrection of Christ” (Acts 2:30-31).
This is also why David’s final psalm is entirely concerned with the King’s Son, the one who shall descend to Earth “like rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth.” His Kingdom is as large as God promised Abraham it would be, since, “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth… Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him, all nations shall serve Him.” He is the righteous King who brings eternal life, the one who “shall save the souls of the needy. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence.” And He shall reign forever to the praise of His people, for God Himself has promised, “His name shall endure forever, His name shall be continued as long as the sun, and men shall be blessed in Him. All nations shall call Him blessed. Blessed be His glorious name for ever, and let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and Amen” (Ps 72:6, 8, 13-14, 19-20).
Just as before, by starting with the assumption that this covenant is revealing objective truths about Christ, the subjective application is given almost automatically. In this case the truth that the savior is also a great King means there’s no salvation apart from His Lordship. If He is to be the priest who saves us then He must be the king who wears the crown as well, for we have no right to dictate the terms of our salvation to our master. This is a call for meekness, a call to declare as David did that He is Lord, for “God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow—things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth—that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:9-11). We can either bow willingly or unwillingly, but bow to Christ we must, for He is sovereign.
More could be said about Christ’s kingship of course. It could be pointed out that He’s the king Jacob had in mind when he blessed Judah on his deathbed (Gen 49:8-12). The one Balaam was speaking about when he said, “the shout of a King is among them” (Num 23:21), and “there shall come a star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Num 24:17). He is the one of whom Isaiah is prophesying of when he said, “Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever” (Is 9:7). It could be mentioned how King Cyrus foreshadows Him (Is 44:28), or how Matthew is consumed with this idea, beginning his parables with the phrase “the kingdom of heaven is…” It’s why Nathanial confessed upon hearing He was the Promised One, “Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel” (John 1:49), why Jesus confessed to Pilate He was the long awaited King (Mat 27:11), and why Pilate announced it with a sign (Mat 27:37). It could even be said that, like Melchadezek of old, Christ is both a king of righteousness and a priest of peace who rules in Jerusalem. But while more could be said, that’s quite enough to firmly establish the matter. Let us therefore return then to the concept which forms the basis for the New Covenant: the idea of Christ as prophet and priest.
Next: The Covenant at Sinai I