Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.”
But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 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.’” In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David. – 2 Samuel 7:12-17 ESV
There is some debate as to the chronological order of chapter seven. The natural assumption is that chapter seven follows chapter six in chronological order. But there are some problems with that assumption. First of all, the chapter starts out with the words, “Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies” (2 Samuel 7:1 ESV). God had given David rest from all his surrounding enemies. In other words, there was a period of national peace. But then, chapter eight opens up with the words, “After this David defeated the Philistines and subdued them” (2 Samuel 7:1 ESV). There are those who believe that the term “rest” simply means that David was experiencing a lull in the fighting. But others believe that chapter eight covers a time in David’s reign when he had completed the task originally given to Joshua, and had subdued all the enemies of Israel in the land of Canaan. This would mean that chapter seven is not in chronological order, but is placed where it is because of its mention of David’s desire to build a house for God. In chapter six, David had placed the Ark of the Covenant in a tent he had pitched for it. So it would seem that throughout his entire reign, the ark had remained in that same spot, until David came up with the idea to build a temple to house it.
Chapter seven appears where it does, not because it fits in chronologically, but because it lays an important framework for the rest of 2 Samuel. It helps explain the future reign of Solomon and provides a foundation for understanding why God remains committed to the kingdom of Israel, in spite of the fact that the majority of their kings failed to remain faithful to God. The covenant outlined in this chapter, known as the Davidic Covenant, was actually a type of treaty, commonly referred to as a grant treaty. In this type of treaty, the sovereign makes a commitment to his servant, and it was typically unconditional. God, the King, is making a promise or covenant with His servant, David, and it is not based on David’s actions or him holding up his end of the bargain. It is a unilateral covenant, not a bi-lateral covenant. God is promising to do something for David that has no basis on David’s obedience or faithfulness. If you look at the words God speaks to David, ten different time He says, “I will…”
“I will make for you a great name…” – vs 9
“I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them…” – vs 10
“I will give you rest from all your enemies…” – vs 11
“the Lord will make you a house…” – vs 11
“I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom” – vs 12
“I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever…” – vs 13
“I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son…” – vs 14
“When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men…” – vs 14
“my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul…” – vs 15
This covenant is based on God, not David. It is a picture of the faithfulness and love of God, not worthiness and obedience of David. And God was not making this covenant with David because he had somehow deserved or earned it. Even David‘s desire to build a house for God was rejected by God. He hadn’t asked David to build him a temple. He didn’t need one. In fact, God promises to make David a house. “Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house” (2 Samuel 7:11 ESV). But He was not talking about a brick-and-mortar house. God was promising to give David an everlasting legacy that would last long after his own death. David’s son, Solomon, would follow him as king, and his reign would be marked by unprecedented peace and prosperity. Solomon would be the one to build a magnificent temple for God. But Solomon’s great reign would not end well. He would prove disobedient to God, having married hundreds of foreign wives and worshiping their false gods. As a result, God would split the kingdom in half. And while descendants of David would continue to rule over Judah from his throne in Jerusalem, another line of kings would reign over the northern kingdom of Israel. And then the time would come when both kingdoms would end up in captivity, the result of the stubborn disobedience and unfaithfulness to God. And from that point forward, no kings would rule over Israel or Judah. To this day, there is no king over Israel.
But that is what makes this covenant so significant. What did God mean when He told David, “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever”? There is no throne in Jerusalem and, even if there was, there is no king to sit on that throne. But there is. There is the King of kings and Lord of lords, who will one day return and reclaim the throne of David.
Hundreds of years later, the angel would tell the virgin Mary, “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” (Luke 1:31-33 NLT). The prophet, Isaiah, foretold of the coming of this King when he wrote, “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity” (Isaiah 9:6-7 NLT). Daniel also told of a kingdom to come: “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever” (Daniel 2:44 NLT).
The apostle John, in the vision given to him while exiled on the island of Patmos, saw this coming King in all His glory.
“and I saw a throne in heaven and someone sitting on it. The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones—like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow. Twenty-four thrones surrounded him, and twenty-four elders sat on them. They were all clothed in white and had gold crowns on their heads…the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne and say, ‘You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.’” – Revelation 4:2-4, 10-11 ESV
Chapter seven is a watershed point in the story of the life of David. What God is letting David know is that his kingdom will be far greater and far more impactful than anything he could ever imagine. God’s plans for David go far beyond his reign or that of his son. And while the descendants of David will prove unfaithful and unreliable, God will remain committed to His covenant and faithful to fulfill what He has promised. The apostle John concludes his great book of Revelation with the stirring image of Christ’s reign on the throne of David:
“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’” – Revelation 21:2-4 ESV
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.