2 Samuel 7:1-2 After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.
David was firmly established as king in Jerusalem, and had built himself a very nice home. But the ark of God was still in a tent, as it had been for over four hundred years. It was constructed at the foot of Mount Sinai shortly after the Israelites were delivered from Egyptian slavery.
2 Samuel 7:3 Nathan replied to the king, Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.
As the prophet Samuel advised King Saul, so various prophets advised King David. This is the first story in which we encounter Nathan, but not the last (2 Samuel 12, 1 Kings 1). He was a faithful servant of the king, and David named one of his sons Nathan, which means gift.
2 Samuel 7:4-5 But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying: Go and tell my servant David, This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?
Nathan had just advised David to do whatever he had in mind. But this was his advice as David’s counselor, not as the mouthpiece of God. That same night God informed Nathan that David was not to build him a temple. I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. . . . did I ever say . . . Why have you not built me a house of cedar? (2 Samuel 7:6-7).
But God was pleased with David’s desire to honor him, and he responded with a promise: The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you (2 Samuel 7:11). David wanted to build a house for God, but God would build a house for David. David wanted to build God a physical house, but God would build David an everlasting household. I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood . . . your throne will be established forever (2 Samuel 7:12-16), said God.
God’s promise to David was an everlasting dynasty. Dynasties are often brief, but may last for centuries, or even millennia. But an everlasting dynasty is hard to imagine.
God’s promise to David had roots going back hundreds of years to Abraham’s wife, Sarah. [K]ings of peoples will come from her (Genesis 17:16), said God. Years later, Abraham’s grandson (Jacob) added, The scepter will not depart from Judah (Genesis 49:10). Since David was descended from Abraham, through Jacob, then Judah, God was fulfilling his promises and making them even greater.
But it didn’t turn out the way David thought it would. In 586 BC, the Babylonians destroyed the city of Jerusalem, blinded the king, and took him back to Babylon. To the natural eye, this was the end of David’s dynasty, and a terrible shock to everyone who believed God’s promise.
The eighty-ninth Psalm captures the bewilderment felt by many. God said of David, I will establish his line forever, his throne as long as the heavens endure. . . . Once for all, I have sworn by my holiness—and I will not lie to David—that his line will continue forever and his throne endure before me like the sun; it will be established forever like the moon, the faithful witness in the sky. . . .
[But] You have renounced the covenant with your servant and have defiled his crown in the dust. You have broken through all his walls and reduced his strongholds to ruins. All who pass by have plundered him; he has become the scorn of his neighbors. . . . Indeed, you have turned back the edge of his sword and have not supported him in battle. You have put an end to his splendor and cast his throne to the ground (Psalm 89:29-44), wrote the Psalmist.
Their grief and confusion were profound, but God’s people did not stop believing, even when God’s promise seemed to fail. But they did not ignore the problem either. They acknowledged the tension between what God had clearly promised (David’s eternal dynasty) and what they had clearly experienced (the collapse of David’s dynasty). In the traditional sense, Israel has never had a Davidic monarch since it fell to Babylon. So, could they trust the promises of God or not? Only time would tell.
Centuries later, Scripture records the birth of the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1). The angel said to his mother, The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David . . . his kingdom will never end (Luke 1:31-33). So when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the people shouted Hosanna to the Son of David (Matthew 21:9), and Blessed is the king of Israel! (John 12:13).
In fact, the prophets had foreseen a future king from David’s line. A shoot will come up from the stump of [David]; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit (Isaiah 11:1), wrote Isaiah. And, I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely (Jeremiah 23:5), said Jeremiah. And, He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom . . . forever (Isaiah 9:7), wrote Isaiah.
What God’s people did not know, and could not understand, was that David’s messianic Son had been ruling from heaven’s throne since before the beginning of time. From a human perspective, the collapse of David’s dynasty was a theological disaster that could not be completely resolved. But from heaven’s perspective, there was no problem at all. David’s son was the eternal king of heaven and earth. He just hadn’t been born yet.
The promises of God find their ultimate fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ. For no matter how many promises God has made, they are Yes in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20), wrote Paul. And Remember Jesus Christ . . . descended from David (2 Timothy 2:8), wrote Paul again. And, I am the Root and the Offspring of David (Revelation 22:16), said Jesus Christ himself.
God gave David an everlasting dynasty through his great-great-grandson, Jesus Christ. And when he returns, Jesus’ kingdom will surpass David’s in every possible way, and it will never end. God always keeps his promises, even when they seem to fail.
Reflection and Review
Why did it seem that God broke his promise to David?
How did God fulfill his promise to David?
How do we know that God will keep his promises?