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Sermon preached on 2 Samuel 7 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 2/7/2016 in Novato, CA.
2 Samuel 7
“Your House and Your Kingdom Shall Be Established Forever”
Expectations can be a dangerous thing. If you set your expectations too high for something, you might find yourself greatly disappointed. Yet, it’s always a pleasant surprise when your expectations are exceeded for something. Well, there is something of that here with David. David seems to have had some wonderful expectations of how God’s promises for his people would be fulfilled. It seems that David thinks that glory days have arrived, and yet God tells him that actually something far better is yet in store. In doing this, God establishes with David what is called the Davidic Covenant. Here God gives a grand and glorious promise of a Messiah that who would be a son of David that would establish an eternal kingdom for God’s people. In case you haven’t realized it yet, this is a tremendously awesome passage of Scripture. This is arguably the highlight of the entire book of 1 and 2 Samuel, as it is the clearest promise of Jesus Christ to come, and helps us to understand the whole Davidic kingdom in an even greater light. And for that matter, this passage will become the content of so much prophecy that the prophets give us in the Old Testament, as they try to figure out when and exactly how this wonderful promise will be fulfilled.
And so I’d like to begin our study then of this passage by looking at David’s desire here. David desires to build God a house. Look at the context for this in verse 1. Verse 1 tells us how David was dwelling in his house, and how God had given him rest from all his enemies all around. So, remember, David had started off in such meager circumstances. David started off as just some young shepherd boy, and now he shepherds the whole nation of God’s people; God reminds us of that in verse 8. And it was quite a journey to get here. Though he was anointed by the prophet Samuel, so long before, he had to go through so much before finally becoming king over all the nations. After he was anointed as king by Samuel, but before he began serving as king, we kept using the language of the already and the not yet. We said he was already anointed as king, but not yet serving as king and all the glory that that would entail. But then he became king of Judah. And then he became king of all the tribes of Israel. Then he conquered the Jebusites and secured Jerusalem and Mount Zion for his new capital. And then he had repeated victories over the evil Philistines. And in the process he had a wonderful palace of cedar built for him in Jerusalem, as a gift from the King of Tyre. And then even, last chapter, he so wonderfully brought the Ark of the Covenant into the city of Jerusalem, that God’s presence would be right there in the capital city with him. And so add to all that, David is now enjoying rest from all his enemies.
And so think of this great victory. Think of the glory of all this! From David’s perspective, he probably thought that all his wildest expectations had been finally realized. And yet it’s in that moment of reflection, as he sits in his wonderful cedar palace, that he has a thought. He thinks about how he is there in this wonderful house of cedar. But he thinks of how the Ark that he had brought to the city was only in some tent. We see his thinking here in verse 2. That’s where he makes the comparison between his house and God’s house. Our translation specifically says that the ark dwells in “tent curtains.” Let me clarify that. When it talks about tent curtains, its actually just one word in the Hebrew and its referring to the material of the tent. That’s David’s comparison. David’s house is made of wood, God’s house is made of fabric. David thinks this doesn’t sound right. I’m sure we can appreciate the sentiment. And again, remember, the context. David probably wouldn’t have built himself such a nice permanent palace in Jerusalem if he didn’t think his kingdom was well established there. But David’s thinking now that he’s clearly established in Jerusalem, and now that his enemies seem to be all pushed back and away, it seems fitting that he could then build a permanent structure for the Ark of the Lord. In fact, surely he remembered the passages in Deuteronomy that spoke of how one day when the people took hold of the Promised Land, that God would choose a place among them, to set his name, and to make his habitation. There are some nine references or so to this in Deuteronomy. And so surely David is thinking that now is the time for the Ark to settle down here, just like was prophesied in Deuteronomy. Glory days had arrived!
And so that is David’s desire. And David then rightly inquired of God through the prophet Nathan. Let’s turn now next to look at God’s response to David through the prophet. Interestingly, Nathan at first gives his blessing on David’s desire, and yet apparently that was only David’s words, not God’s, per verses 3-4. I think the fact that Nathan immediately said okay to David’s desire, shows that there was certainly an apparent logic and rightness to David’s desire. And yet that’s when divine revelation can be needed, to come and clarify God’s mysterious purposes that otherwise would not have been known.
And so I’m going to simplify for our purposes God’s response to David down into three points. One, God essentially says that it’s not the right time for this. Two, God also says that he will build David a house instead. Three, he then says that one of David’s offspring will be the one to build God a house. And so let’s think first about God’s response concerning the timing about building him a house. Start in verses 6-7. God reflects back on former times. He points out that there was never a time in the past where he asked for a house, or frankly even needed a house. Look specifically at the end of verse 6. God says that up to this point he’s been moving about in a tent. I think part of the idea here from God is that this was actually helpful and good. Remember the wilderness wandering. The people were wandering. And so they needed the Ark to be easily portable. It wouldn’t have made sense then to make a temple of wood. Or even think of the more recent history. Remember that the Ark was in Shiloh, but Shiloh got overran by the Philistines. It wasn’t safe from the enemies of God’s people, and so having a tabernacle that is more mobile would actually be helpful in the midst of such political uncertainty. And so up to this point, there was a wisdom and logic to having a portable tent. Surely that’s why up to this point, God had never commanded his leaders to build him a house of cedar. I remember back to Abraham’s days. As we read about in Hebrews 11, he was intentionally living in the Promised Land at that time in tents, to reflect what he recognized as the temporary nature of his time there.
Now all this is true, but to turn back to David’s thinking, David had evidently thought the time had come when, finally, God and his people could all settle down in Jerusalem. David had himself settled there and found rest from all his enemies. David evidently thought this was the right time, now, finally, after all this moving around, finally, the Ark could be settled permanently here in Jerusalem.
And yet, we see verses 9-10. On the one hand God acknowledges there that he had established David wonderfully. But look then at what he predicts for the future in verse 10. “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; nor shall the sons of wickedness oppress them anymore, as previously.” That’s such a crucial verse there. You see, David thinks he’s arrived in terms of peace and stability. But God speaks of that yet in the future. He will appoint such a place, where his people can finally be settled permanently. A place when at that time the evil peoples of this world will no longer afflict them. You see, that’s been Israel’s story all through the time of the judges. Regular troubles with the evil nations all around them oppressing them. David finally thought that was all over. In one sense it was, with the establishment of his kingdom. But not in the full. Not in terms of what God envisioned. David’s expectations of peace and glory are being challenged here. God had something more wonderful in mind!
So that’s the first part to highlight of God’s response to David. Next, notice that God says that instead of David building him a house, God will build David a house, verse 11. What an amazing thing for David to hear from God! What grace and initiative of God! What work of God over man’s work! And so realize what kind of house God is promising David here. It’s not a palace, nor something made out of either fabric or cedar. It’s something far greater. It speaks to David’s dynasty and his kingdom. Verse 12, God says to David, “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.” And so the kind of house that God will build for David is to establish his offspring in an eternal kingdom.
Notice in the background the contrast of King Saul. Remember, God specifically told Saul that his kingdom would not continue. God specifically punished Saul’s disobedience in that way. That’s the contrast here. And by God covenanting himself in this way to David, it’s a promise that says that what happened with Saul won’t happen with David. David’s kingdom will be established eternally through his offspring. That’s the language we see here. Verses 13 and 16, both say this, that this kingdom from his offspring will be established “forever.”
We get a better sense of how this promise of a kingdom will be unlosable by what God says in verses 14-15. God speaks how he will be a father to this offspring of David, and that he will be God’s son. God then goes on to talk about what would happen if that offspring sins against God. Will God nullify this covenant? No. This covenant being made is not conditioned on David’s offspring’s obedience. God is saying that he will fulfill this covenant regardless of if David’s offspring sin or not. David can have full confidence that it will come about. To clarify, God is not saying that he will overlook any such sin. Rather he says in verse 14 that if his offspring do sin, then he will chastise them as that father who chastises his son. Interestingly, God specifically says that he’ll use human agency to bring such chastisement, the “rod of men” and the “blows of the son of men,” verse 14. Verse 15 especially drives this home. “But my mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul.” There’s the Saul contrast. But I love that word there for mercy. It’s the Hebrew word hesed which is difficult to translate, but it generally is a word used for people in covenant relationship. It’s the covenant faithfulness and kindness and love shown to the person with whom you are in covenant. God tells David that yes he might have to discipline David’s offspring, but they won’t be able to break the covenant. God’s word is sure on this. David’s kingdom will be established through his offspring over an eternal kingdom.
And so that’s the second part to highlight of God’s response to David. Last, let’s notice that God says that David’s offspring will ultimately build a house for God. What another interesting idea here. What is the nature of this house? Well, God says that this house will be a house for his name. What does that mean? Well, maybe it would help to point out that when God speaks of his name in the Bible it usually is in the sense of God’s glory and his renown and his reputation. And so this will be a house upon which God’s shows forth his glory through in and this house. Of course, we can remember the amazing glory that was shown forth in the tabernacle when it was first erected, like in Exodus 40, when that cloud of God’s presence and glory settled upon the tabernacle, Exodus 40:35.
And so we can appreciate that whatever this new house for God will be like, it will be to show forth his glory. But that still begs the question. Is this house that David’s offspring is going to build, is it going to be a cedar house finally? Is that what God has in mind? In light of the temple that will be built, and how positively God will speak of that temple, we could certainly think of that here. However, given the context, we certainly are justified in asking the question. I mean David was all concerned about comparing his cedar house with God’s fabric house, and look how God responded. God responded saying that instead God would build him a house. But clearly that house is neither cedar or fabric, but something much better. So then when he immediately turns to talk about how David’s offspring will ultimately build God a house, I think we are justified to ask if God is actually talking there about a cedar house or not.
So, to answer this question, we need to go to our third point for today. Our third point for today is to consider the fulfillment of God’s promises here. In other words, here we have this Davidic covenant. When and how is this covenant fulfilled? Well, I’m sure most of us here can already expect the answer. The answer is ultimately Jesus. Jesus and what he does is the ultimate fulfillment of this passage. But to just say that, would be to be too simplistic, and not go into the details that we should. You see, when this promise is made about David’s offspring, I think we should see two aspects of its fulfillment. There is the fulfillment that comes most fully in Jesus. But there is a sense in which the offspring of David leading up to Jesus also shared somewhat in the fulfillment. My analogy would be with the Abrahamic covenant. When God made the covenant with Abraham he told Abraham that it was a promise about blessings that would come to and through his offspring. Well, clearly that word offspring can be understood in two different ways. On the one hand, it’s a collective word, that though it’s a singular noun, it can be used to refer to the whole group of people that descended from Abraham. And it is certainly true that the descendants of Abraham collectively experienced many blessings under the Abrahamic covenant. And yet Paul at the same time in Galatians took the fact that the word “offspring” is singular to make the case that the promises in the Abrahamic covenant finds their ultimate fulfillment in one particular descendant, namely Jesus Christ.
And so the same thing seems to be going on here. There’s a way in which what is promised here finds some initial fulfillment in the many kings that come forth from the line of David and continue his dynasty. This is especially clear when it comes to the idea about David’s seed building God a house. David’s immediate son and successor, Solomon, built God a house. He built him a temple of cedar in Jerusalem. The Bible talks positively about that temple, and God’s glory did fill that house of worship. God did bless that building and what went on there. And in the New Testament, in Acts 7, it mentions how David wanted to build God a house, but says that instead Solomon built God a house, Acts 7:47. So, clearly there is some fulfillment of this passage with Solomon building that earthly temple. But I think we need to realize that Solomon’s building of that house was itself not the ultimate fulfillment. Solomon’s building of that house was only more Old Testament typology. It was typological in that it anticipated in a visible way the house that Jesus Christ would build. But it wasn’t the ultimate one. In fact, in Acts 7, it immediately goes on to say in commenting on the house Solomon built that God doesn’t live in houses built with hands!
And just think about it. If the house that Solomon built was the house promised here, think of how that doesn’t make any sense to the context here. David wanted to build a house for God and God basically said it wasn’t time yet. First God needed to plant the people in a permanent home and give them complete peace from all his enemies, and establish the kingdom forever in one of David’s sons. But Solomon’s temple would not be that in any permanent or forever sense. God’s people still faced troubles with their enemies. Eventually the Babylonians came and destroyed them and destroyed the temple that Solomon built. Eventually God’s people resettled in Jerusalem, and built another earthly temple, and then that got destroyed. And some people today even, obviously missing the pattern, want to build yet another one. But I would submit to you that this is not the kind of house that God intended Jesus, the son of David, to build. The New Testament is clear that Jesus is the long awaited son of David, and he didn’t try to build an earthly temple. In fact, he’s the one who predicted the destruction of the earthly temple that was there at that time, which happened in 70 AD.
We can see a similar way in which some of David’s offspring prior to Jesus were envisioned in this passage with the reference to sin in verse 14. We know clearly from the New Testament that Jesus was the promised Messiah from the line of David, but we also know clearly that he committed no sin. So, what’s the point and value of talking about verse 14 if this is only about Jesus, and he’s not going to sin? Well, when we see that there’s an application here to the many kings from David’s line, then it makes great sense. You see, from David’s line there were some godly kings. But there were also some ungodly ones. And of course they all ultimately sinned in various ways. But the point is that none of their sins could break this covenant that God was making with David. And that’s the record. God brought chastisement to the kings of David’s line. It particularly came when God ordained for the Babylonians to come and destroy Jerusalem. A king from David’s line has not sat on an earthly throne in Jerusalem since then. But the prophets back then didn’t lose hope. No, not at all. They remembered this passage. And so you can find so much prophecy from the Old Testament prophets appealing to these promises made to David. And that’s the point. God’s fatherly discipline of those from David’s line happened until God brought forth the one from David’s line that would no longer need such chastisement. God preserved the line of David through his fatherly discipline until he could establish the kingdom forever in that Son of David who would not need such discipline.
Of course, we can remember the gospel then too when we remember how any of us can be a part of Jesus’ kingdom when we have such sin. Jesus, though sinless himself, took on the rod of men and the blows of the son of men when he went to the cross. He did that for our sins, to receive the chastisement due to us, that by his wounds would be healed. Jesus did this as a part of how he would be able to build a house and a kingdom. He did this so that house could be made up of God’s redeemed people; that we could dwell in permanent peace from all our enemies, in Christ’s forever kingdom. This we receive by faith in his great name, as we repent of our sins and turn and follow Christ as our Lord and Savior.
So King Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of this passage. And he has already but not yet fulfilled it. He has already fulfilled this passage in that God has inaugurated Christ’s kingdom at the cross and the resurrection. Even now Jesus reigns over his kingdom from the right hand of God the father. That kingdom is manifested on this earth through his church. But it’s not yet come in the fullness of glory; for we know that God’s people still live as strangers and sojourners in this world, with many enemies that still afflict us. That final peace and glory will come at his return. We are not permanently settled, yet.
And Christ has already built a house for God, and is building a house for God, a place where God dwells amidst his people. 1 Peter 2:4-5 speaks as Jesus as the Living Stone in which each Christian is a living stone being built upon Jesus as a spiritual house. Note that it says there in 1 Peter 2:5 that it’s a spiritual house. In other words, not a cedar house nor a fabric house. That’s what Christ has built and is building. The house then right now is us! Christians. We are the house that Jesus, Son of David, is building. God dwells within us! And yet we know that house will be fully completed when all the elect are brought into the kingdom, and made into this final house, and then Christ will return. Then he will bring the new heavens and the new earth. And listen to the proclamation of that great day in Revelation 21:3, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” You see, that is the ultimate house Jesus is building for God. A place where he can dwell forever with his redeemed people.
Brothers and sisters, that’s what we are a part of by faith in Jesus Christ. May you then know the times that we live in. When Jesus first came, and when those angels sang glory to God in the highest, it might have been easy to mistake that, like David did here, with the final glorious end that God had in store. But God had something more wonderful in mind. Now with the coming of Christ, this prophecy from 2 Samuel 7 has certainly had a very fulfillment, but we know there is something even better yet to come. Now we experience a great rest, but it’s not yet time to rest. Prepare to have your expectations exceeded when Christ comes back to finish building the house! But for now, he has work for us to do. He’s commissioned us to be a part of his building project!
So, let’s set our expectations high. When I first got here as pastor, things were looking pretty bleak for our ministry here as a church. We were down to something like 20 people as a church. And without embarrassing anyone, I heard some comments from people saying things like, if only we could get back to 40 people, then maybe we could be financially solvent and be better again. Well, by God’s grace, we’ve gotten back to that number and more. And I’ve tried to say it back then, and let me say it again now. Let us set our expectations higher. Christ is right now building a house and a kingdom. He has called us to be a part of that. He doesn’t have low expectations. Let us strive by his grace and strength onward and upward as we continue to be about his work. Amen.
Copyright © 2016 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.