Divine Covenants by A.W. Pink
Part Six-The Davidic Covenant
In this chapter we shall attempt little more than to point out the connecting links between the Sinaitic and the Davidic covenants. The various covenants recorded in the Old Testament, as we have previously stated, mark the principal stages in the development of God’s purpose of mercy toward our fallen race. Each one brought to light some further aspect of truth, and that, in keeping with particular incidents in the circumstances of God’s people on earth. The covenants and the history are so intimately related that some knowledge of the one is indispensable to an understanding of the other, for each throws light upon the other. Only when the divine covenants and the sacred history connected with them are mutually studied, can we be in a position to trace the divine wisdom in those epoch-making transactions. But in order not to extend this study unto too great a length, our review of the history must necessarily be brief and incomplete.
The statutes and ordinances given for the regulation of Israel, the covenant people, assumed a definite form sometime before the death of Moses, who, on account of his sin, was not allowed to lead the people into the promised land. In view of his removal, he was divinely instructed to select Joshua as his successor, to whose leadership the nation was entrusted in the great enterprise which lay before them. The previous life of this eminent man had supplied a suitable training for the work which was assigned to him, and his future conduct manifested qualities which evidenced him to be equal to all the exigencies of his high service. Under his administration, the conquest of Canaan was, to a large extent, successfully accomplished, and the land was divided by lot to the several tribes. On the eve of his decease he was able to say, "Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts . . . that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, not one thing hath failed thereof" (Josh. 23:14).
The above language (like much in Scripture) is not to be taken absolutely, as though the entire conquest of Canaan was now complete and the inheritance fully secured-the fact was otherwise. No, it is to be understood as affirming that up to this time no assistance had been withheld which their project required or that had been promised to them, and it was designed to strengthen their faith and encourage their hearts in regard to further success in its future prosecutions. Joshua had no successor, nor was any needed. Though Israel was a single nation, with common laws, under one King, yet each tribe had its own rulers, sufficient for orderly self-government and to take possession of that portion of the inheritance which had been allotted them. In some cases the land had yet to be acquired, and the tribes whose property it was were obligated to effect its conquest, whether by their own efforts or with the aid of their fellows. All of this is sufficiently apparent from the facts of the sacred history.
After the death of Joshua, Judah, assisted by the tribe of Simeon, was the first to go up, under divine direction, to fight against the Canaanites. For a time success attended their efforts, but soon they fell into the awful sin of idolatry (Judg. 2:11-13), and divine punishment quickly followed. Jehovah sold them into the hands of their enemies, until in pity for their affliction, He interposed for their relief. The historical account of their condition during a lengthy period is but fragmentary. The Book of judges does not give us a continuous and connected narrative, but merely relates the principal disasters in which, at different times, their transgressions involved them, and of the various means which God graciously employed for their deliverance. If the reader will consult Judges 2:12-18 he will discover that the remainder of that book is but a series of illustrations of what is there stated.
The judges were extraordinary officers raised up by God, occasionally, by special designation, yet always acting with the free concurrence of the people. While their rule in most instances extended over the whole nation, in some it seems to have been confined to particular tribes only; but so far as their commission reached, they had under God supreme authority. Usually, they were the leaders in the military operations undertaken against the oppressors of Israel; though in some instances they were appointed for the suppression of disorders prevailing among the tribes themselves. Special circumstances alone determined their appointment. Their power was real; yet so far as the inspired record informs us, their habits continued simple. They had no external badge of distinction, received no emolument for their services, and enjoyed no exclusive privileges that were capable of being transmitted to the members of their several families.
The Book of judges is mainly limited to giving us a summary statement of the official acts of these men. There are considerable intervals in respect to which we have no information-possibly because those particular periods were marked by comparative peace and prosperity, during which the worship of Jehovah was maintained and His blessing enjoyed. Of that state of things the Book of Ruth supplies a pleasing illustration. Throughout the whole of this period, the Levitical institutions supplied the people with all the instruction which was necessary for their direction in divine worship and the maintenance of that fellowship with God to which they had been admitted. Nothing in the form of addition was made to the truth which through the instrumentality of Moses had been disclosed and placed on permanent record. Some were raised up endowed with the gift of prophecy, but they appear to have been few in number, appearing only on rare occasions, their utterances being confined to what concerned the present duty of the people.
Though no new truth was given, nor even any amplification of what had been previously revealed, yet even so, Israel then supplied a striking type of the kingdom of God as it is now revealed under the gospel. They were a people under the immediate government of God, subject to His authority alone, bound together by ties which their relation to Him created, and enjoying the privilege of access to His mercy-seat (through their high priest) for counsel and aid in every emergency. Is it not thus, though in a truer and higher sense, with the saints of this dispensation? The Lord is enthroned in their hearts, His yoke they have freely taken upon them, and whatever distinctions in other respects may exist among them, they are one in fealty to Him and unite in the practical homage which He requires. But Israel understood not their position and appreciated not their advantages. They were discontented, distrustful, stiff-necked, ever forsaking their own mercies.
In one particular respect their outward condition remained defective: they had not yet acquired the full and peaceful possession of their inheritance. Their enemies were still powerful and involved them in perpetual trouble. This, however, was the effect of their own unfaithfulness. Had they resolutely obeyed the voice of the Lord and continued in the task to which He had called them, had they in humble dependence on His power and promised grace fulfilled their instructions, they would soon have realized a state of prosperity equal to all they were warranted to expect (Ps. 81:13-16). But their indolence and unbelief deprived them of blessings which were within their reach. They were unsettled. Their very worship was in a degree as yet provisional-indicated by the removal of the ark of the covenant from place to place. They were content that it should be so, being too carnal minded to really value the peculiar constitution which it was their privilege to enjoy.
Samuel was the last of the judges, and from his time the stream of history flows on in a more continuous course. Received in answer to prayer, he was from his birth consecrated to God. That consecration was graciously accepted, and while yet a child he became the subject of divine communications. Thus early did the Lord indicate the nature of that service in which his life was to be spent. Samuel, we are told, "grew, and the Lord was with him, and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord" (1 Sam. 3:19, 20). At what time he publicly assumed the office of judge we are not directly informed: probably while yet a youth he was understood to be designed thereto, but only in mature life acknowledged in that capacity by the tribes assembled at Mizpeh (1 Sam. 7:6).
Since Moses, no one exercised a more beneficial influence upon Israel, in every respect, than did Samuel. His administration was singularly able and prosperous. When the infirmities of age came upon him, he associated his sons with him in the office, doubtless with the concurrence of the people; but, as so often follows in such a case, the arrangement did not work well. The young men were very different in character from their aged parent, and they acted accordingly: "And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment" (1 Sam. 8:3). The evil course they pursued seems to have been systematic and open, and was publicly felt to be all the more intolerable because of its marked contrast from the integrity which had uniformly marked the official conduct of Samuel himself.
Such scandalous conduct on the part of Samuel’s sons caused the people to be loud in their expression of dissatisfaction, which was followed by a demand for which the aged servant of God was not prepared: "Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah. And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations" (1 Sam. 8:4, 5). Various considerations incline us to form the conclusion that this proposal was far from being a sudden one on the part of the people. Although Samuel was neither slow nor unsuccessful in repelling the attacks of their enemies, yet his government was, on the whole, a pacific one, such as the condition of the people then called for. While much yet remained to be done for the complete conquest of their inheritance, they were enfeebled by unbelief and all its consequences, and therefore practically unfitted for the work assigned to them.
Time and training were required for their restoration to that state of efficiency on which, humanly speaking, their success depended. This was the result at which the administration of Samuel aimed. But there is reason to believe that his wise policy was anything but agreeable to them. However ill qualified for it, the passion for conquest had sprung up amongst the people. They had become dissatisfied with the occasional military efforts of the judges and, enamored with the regal pomp of the surrounding nations, they formed extravagant expectations of what a vast improvement in their condition the settled rule of a race of kings would produce. This, we take it, is what led up to and lies behind the demand which they made upon Samuel in the present instance.
But the demand involved a marked departure from the constitution which God had established amongst them. Jehovah Himself was their King, and He had given no outward intimation that things should not continue in the observance of those simple arrangements under which their political condition had been settled, with the assurance that the Lord was ever present with them, ready to afford them the counsel and aid which they needed. Their past history, notwithstanding their deep unworthiness, had abundantly proved how promptly and graciously that assurance had been made good. But this state of privilege the people were too earthly to value. In the intention of the mass of the people, the request made to Samuel was a practical renunciation of the theocracy. The demand itself, then, was wrong; and in spirit and purpose it was still more reprehensible.
The demand presented to Samuel indicated an unreasonable dissatisfaction with the divine goodness, and a rejection of the divine claims. In this light it was regarded by God Himself. The Lord said unto Samuel, "Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them" (1 Sam. 8:7). That the change now desired would be ultimately sought was foreseen from the first. An intimation to that effect was given through Moses and accompanied with instructions for the guidance of the people when that event occurred. "When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother. But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt," etc. (Deut. 17:14-20).
It is to be duly noted that the terms of the above passage simply anticipated what would assuredly happen: they neither ordered the change itself, nor expressed approval of it. The request made by Israel to Samuel was indeed granted, yet in such a way as to demonstrate the fallacy of the expectations which they had entertained, and to bring with it chastisement for their sin. God gave them their own desire, but mocked their vain hopes. The regal dignity was first conferred on Saul, one possessing the very qualifications which Israel desired: a man after their own heart. He was comely in person, commanding in appearance, just such a one as to suit their carnal tastes. To his appointment some dissatisfaction was at first shown, but this was speedily silenced by the success of his early actions, and subsequently his election was confirmed at Gilgal with the general concurrence of Israel (1 Sam. 11:15).
But the reign of Saul was a disastrous one. He was grievously defective in those moral and spiritual qualities indispensable to the requirements of his high position. The defects of his character soon became apparent: he proved himself to be rash, self-willed, jealous, and disobedient to the divine command. His administration was marked by injustice and cruelty; disorder and feebleness increased toward the close of his reign, and, forsaken of God, he ultimately perished on the battlefield, where the armies of Israel suffered an ignominious defeat. Sorely wounded, he put an end to his miserable existence by taking his own life. Fearfully humiliating, then, was Israel’s punishment for their presumptuous sin. To this sad episode the words of the prophet applied, when through him God said, "I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath" (Hos. 13:11).
How mysterious and yet how perfect are the ways and works of "the Lord God omnipotent" (Rev. 19:6)! He makes all things subservient to His own glory, so directing the affairs of earth as to promote His own gracious designs. Though He be in no sense chargeable with the sins of the creature, yet He maketh "the wrath of man" to praise Him (Ps. 76:10). A striking, solemn, and yet blessed illustration of this appears in that incident of Israel’s history which we are now considering-namely, their discontent at having Jehovah Himself for their King, and their demand for a human monarch, that they might be like the heathen nations surrounding them (1 Sam. 8:5). This was most evil and wicked on their part, and as such, highly displeasing unto the Lord, who bade Samuel "protest solemnly unto them" (1 Sam. 8:9). This was followed by God’s chastening them by appointing Saul, whose reign was a most disastrous one for Israel.
So much for the human side; but what of the divine? The change now produced in the political constitution of Israel, though sinful in its origin and disastrous in its immediate effects, was in divine mercy overruled to disclose some new aspects of the divine purpose toward our fallen world. It became the means of unfolding by a fresh series of types the future exaltation of the Messiah, the nature and extent of His kingdom, and the beneficial effects of His administration. When the rejection of Saul was definitely intimated, steps were quickly taken under divine direction in the choice of his successor; and in this instance the carnal views of the people were in nowise consulted. God chose a man after His own heart: one whom His grace had prepared, and who in his official character, unlike Saul, would pay implicit deference to every intimation of the divine will.
But before we take a closer view of David himself, let us add a further word to the above upon what brought about the institution of the kingly office in the constitution of Israel. As we have seen, it was a sin for the people to seek a king, yet it was of the Lord that they sought one. This is a deep mystery; yet its underlying principle is being constantly exemplified. God accomplishes His holy counsels by the free actions of sinful men. According to God’s sovereign purpose Saul must be made king of Israel; yet in bringing this to pass only the working of natural laws was employed. From the human side it was because the sons of Samuel were corrupt in judging, and in consequence the people had asked him for a king. Had those sons been of the same caliber as their father, the people would have been satisfied and no king would have been requested. It was by His ordinary providential control that God brought this to pass.
In nowise was the divine holiness compromised: the divine decree was accomplished, yet the people acted freely, and the guilt of their action was justly visited upon them. It may be asked, "Why did not Providence prevent this occasion of sin to His people? Why did His providence lay this stumblingblock before them? If God designed to give them a king, why did He not give them a king in a way that would have presented them with no occasion of rejecting Himself as King? God designed to show that rebellion was in them, and His providence manifests this, even in the way of fulfilling His own purposes, which coincided with theirs. Here is sovereignty" (Alexander Carson). Yes, and here is also infinite wisdom, that can bring to pass His own foreordinations without doing any violence to the responsibility of man, that can guide his evil inclinations, without any complicity therein. But to return to our more immediate inquiry.
At the time David was selected to be the successor of Saul, he was in the bloom of youth-the youngest son of his father’s house. Although the intimation given of the high honor awaiting him was too distinct to be missed, it did not produce any injurious effects upon him. He continued to serve Saul as if he had been wholly ignorant of what God had designed. He was not puffed up with his prospects, nor did he give any intimation of a selfish ambition. He never presumed to anticipate by any effort of his own the fulfillment of the divine purpose, but left it entirely with God to effect the same in His own time and way. From Saul himself he received sufficient provocation to have tempted him to pursue an opposite course, but he quietly submitted to God’s sovereignty and waited for Him to make good His promise. Well may we seek grace to emulate such becoming meekness and patience.
In due time God fulfilled His word. On the death of Saul, the tribe of Judah anointed David king at Hebron (2 Sam. 2:4), and seven years later, every hindrance having been providentially removed, all the other tribes concurred in his election (2 Sam. 5:3). During the early part of his reign, the attention of David was directed to suppressing the assaults of the Philistines and other enemies. His military operations were most successful, and the foes of Israel were humbled and subdued. On the establishment of peace throughout his kingdom, David’s thoughts were directed to the removal of the ark, which had hitherto been migratory, to a settled place in Jerusalem. That city, in its entire extent, had recently come into his possession and had been chosen as the royal residence and the seat of divine worship. The conquering of the promised land, through the divine blessing on his administration, was now in a great measure completed; and David concluded that the time was ripe for him to erect a fixed and permanent habitation for the worship of Jehovah.
He formed the resolution to build a house for the Lord, and made known the same unto. the prophet Nathan, by whom he was at first encouraged. But though God approved the thought of David’s heart, He would not permit him to give effect to his intentions. That particular honor was reserved for his son and successor, Solomon, although he was not then born. The reason for this is expressly stated: God said to him, "Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars; thou shalt not build a house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight" (1 Chron. 22:8). This statement does not mean that the wars in which David had engaged were unauthorized and sinful; on the contrary, they were undertaken by divine orders, and their success was often secured by signal manifestations of God’s interposition. But that aspect of the divine character revealed in those events was different from that which worship mainly disclosed; therefore, there had been an evident incongruity in one who had shed so much blood erecting a house for the God of mercy and grace.
By the intended house of prayer, symbolic instruction was designed to be conveyed, and in order for that to be accomplished, peaceful conditions were required in association with its erection. Accordingly Nathan was sent to David to prohibit the accomplishment of his design. The divine message, however, was accompanied with the most striking assurances of the favor of God toward himself. After reminding David of the humble condition from which he had been taken to be ruler over Israel, and of the invariable proofs of the divine presence and blessing which had attended all his enterprises, the prophet declared, "The Lord telleth thee that he will make thee a house. And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, 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 Sam. 7:11-16).
It is pitiable that any should raise a quibble that because there is no express mention here of any "covenant" being made, therefore we are not warranted in so regarding this event. It is true we have no formal account of any sacrifices being offered in connection with it, no express figurative ratification of it, such as we find attending every similar transaction of which mention is made in Scripture. But the silence observed on this point is no proof that no such formality took place. The legitimate inference rather is that those observances were so customary on such occasions, and were so well understood, as to make any specific allusion to them here quite unnecessary. However, that it was a true covenant is evident from the distinct and frequent mention of it under this very designation in other passages.
That the great transaction narrated in 2 Samuel 7 was thus regarded by David himself as a covenant is clear from his own declaration: "Although my house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure; for this is all my salvation, and all my desire" (2 Sam. 23:5). When was it that God made this everlasting covenant with David, if not in the place which we are now considering? But what is still more to the point, the Lord Himself refers to the same as a covenant, as we may see from His response to Solomon’s prayer: "If thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, and do according to all that I have commanded thee, and shalt observe my statutes and my judgments; then will I establish the throne of thy kingdom according as I have covenanted with David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man to be ruler in Israel" (2 Chron. 7:17, 18). With these statements before us, we cannot doubt that this divine transaction with David was a true covenant, even though there is no formal record of its ratification.
That the Davidic covenant constituted another of those remarkable revelations which at different times distinguished the history of the Jewish people, a cursory examination of its contents is sufficient to show. Like every similar transaction which occurred during the Old Testament era, it has certain typical aspects which were the figures of higher spiritual blessings. Those had special reference to David and his family. He was, for instance, assured that the temple should be built by his immediate successor, and that his family was destined to occupy a prominent place in the future history of Israel, and that the regal dignity conferred upon him should be perpetuated in his descendants so long, at least, as they did not by their sins forfeit the earthly advantages those secured to them. Those temporal promises were the ground on which the covenant rested, and were the elements which expanded into richer spiritual blessings in the distant future.
Viewed in relationship to the more spiritual results, David affirmed that the covenant was "ordered in all things, and sure" (2 Sam. 23:5). Against every possible contingency provision was made; nothing should ever prevail to defeat the fulfillment of those promises. Even the sins of the individuals of his race, though they would certainly meet with righteous punishment and might terminate in the ruin of those who committed them and in the permanent depression of the family, (as in fact they did), would not annul them. It is with these higher aspects of the Davidic covenant we shall be chiefly concerned. From them we may gather the true nature of the solemn engagements it contained, and estimate the addition made by it to the sum of revealed truth-the increased light which it shed on the scheme of divine mercy, then in the course of disclosure.
The substance of the information conveyed by this covenant had reference to the exaltation, kingdom, and glory of the Messiah. Hints of a similar kind, though few, obscure, and isolated, are certainly to be found in the previous portions of Scripture, the most striking of which is the intimation given through Jacob, that "the sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be" (Gen. 49:10). But those hints were then, and up to the time of David, very imperfectly, if at all, understood, even by the most spiritually minded of the people. They do not seem to have attracted notice; now, however, they were concentrated in and amplified with far greater distinctness through the promises of the Davidic covenant. For the first time the regal dignity of the Messiah was exhibited, which, especially when enlarged by the later prophetic representations, the Jews were not slow to interpret in accord with their carnal ideas.
Thus far all has been, comparatively, plain sailing; but when we come to the actual interpretation of the promises made to David in 2 Samuel 7, real difficulty is encountered. Those which relate particularly to the ultimate design of the covenant require a much closer examination, and when attempting it a reference to other passages treating of the same subject will be essential. But before entering these deeper waters, let it be pointed out that, by the terms of this covenant a further and distinct limitation was given as to the actual line from which the promised Seed should spring. In the progress of divine revelation, the channel through which the future Deliverer should issue was, at successive periods, considerably narrowed. Though this has often been traced out by others, it is too important and interesting for us to ignore.
The first prediction, recorded in Genesis 3:15, was couched in the most general form, simply intimating that the Vanquisher of the serpent would assume humanity, though supernaturally. On the destruction of the old world, the promise was renewed to Noah, together with an intimation that it would be through Seth its fulfillment should take place (Gen. 9:27). A further step forward was taken when Abraham was chosen as the progenitor of Him in whom all the families of the earth should be blessed. His descendants, in the line of Isaac, on whom the promise was entailed, were, however, so numerous that no definite view could be taken as to the precise quarter from which its fulfillment might be looked for. Subsequently, the tribe of Judah was indicated, but this being one of the most numerous of the tribes, the same indefiniteness, though in a less degree, would exist as to the particular family on whom this honor was to be conferred.
Time rolled on, and now the family of David was selected as the medium through which the promise was to take effect. To that family the longings of all who looked for the Hope of Israel was henceforth restricted, and greater facility was thereby afforded for obtaining the requisite proof of the claims of the Messiah when He should appear. Thus, by a succession of steps God defined the course through which His gracious purpose would be wrought out, and with increasing distinctness concentrated the attention of the faithful toward the true direction in which the divine promise would be realized; the last limitation possessing a definiteness to which none of the others could lay claim.
(In these two chapters we have followed closely John Kelly in his work  on The Divine Covenants.)
We closed the previous chapter by pointing out the successive steps by which God gradually made known the counsels of His will which were to eventuate in the advent and incarnation of His Son. Under the Davidic covenant, the royal dignity of the Messiah was for the first time definitely revealed. It should however be pointed out that a remarkable anticipation of this was given through the inspired song of Hannah, recorded in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. Therein we find a blessed blending of the typical with the prophetical, whereby the former pointed forward to things of a similar nature but of higher and wider importance. In other words, typical transactions supplied the material for a prediction of something analogous yet much loftier and grander in kind. The future was anticipated by present incidents, so ordered by God as to foreshadow gospel verities, the historical thus serving as a mold to give prophetic shape to the future things of God’s kingdom.
Hannah’s song was evoked, under the moving of the Holy Spirit, by the birth of Samuel. The spiritual life of Israel was then at a very low ebb. The natural barrenness which had previously characterized Hannah adumbrated the sterility of the nation Godward. The provocation which she received from "her adversary" and which provoked her sorely (1 Sam. 1:5) was a figure of the contempt in which Israel was held by her foes, the surrounding nations. The feebleness of Eli and his lack of discernment imaged the decrepitude of the religious leaders in general: "in those days there was no open vision" (1 Sam. 3:1). The corruptness of Eli’s sons and the readiness of the people to offer them bribes indicates clearly the sad level to which conditions had sunk. Such, in brief, is a historical outline of the situation at that time, typically featured in the items we have mentioned.
The gratitude and joy of Hannah when the Lord opened her womb served as a suitable occasion for the Spirit to utter through her the prophetic song alluded to above. Deeply moved at having received the child of her hopes and prayers, which she had devoted from his birth as a Nazarite to the Lord’s service, her soul was stirred by a prophetic impulse and her vision enlarged to perceive that her experience in becoming a mother was a sign of the spiritual fruitfulness of the true Israel of God in the distant future. Under that prophetic impulse she took a comprehensive survey of the general scheme of God, observing that gracious sovereignty which delights to exalt a humble piety, but which pours contempt on the proud and rebellious, until in the final crescendo she exclaimed, "The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them; the Lord shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed" (1 Sam. 2:10).
Remarkable indeed is that language. The final words "his anointed" are literally "his Messiah" or "Christ." This is the first time in Holy Writ that that blessed title is found in its most distinctive sense, though as we all know it occurs hundreds of times afterward as the synonym for the consecrated King, or Head of the divine kingdom. The other expressions in the same verse "The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces" and "the Lord shall judge the ends of the earth" show that it was of the Messiah’s kingdom that Hannah was moved by the Holy Spirit to speak. How striking, then, is it to see that the historical features of Hannah’s day possessed an undoubted typical significance, and that they formed the basis of a prophecy which was to receive its fulfillment in the distant future! This supplies a valuable key to many of the later Messianic predictions.
Any possible doubt as to the prophetic purport of Hannah’s song is at once removed by a comparison of the "Magnificat" uttered by Mary at the announcement of the Messiah’s birth (see Luke 1:46-55). It is indeed striking to find how the Virgin reechoed the same sentiments and in some instances repeated the very words used by the mother of Samuel a thousand years previously. "Why should the Spirit, breathing at such a time in the soul of Mary, have turned her thoughts so nearly into the channel that had been struck out ages before by the pious Hannah? Or why should the circumstances connected with the birth of Hannah’s Nazarite offspring have proved the occasion of strains which so distinctly pointed to the manifestation of the King o-f Glory, and so closely harmonize with those actually sung in celebration of the event? Doubtless to mark the connection really subsisting between the two. It is the Spirit’s own intimation of His ultimate design in transactions long since past, and testimonies delivered centuries before-namely, to herald the advent of Messiah, and familiarize the children of the kingdom with the essential character of the coming dispensation" (P. Fairbairn).
The combination of typical history with prophetic utterance which we observe in Hannah’s song is seen again and again in the later Scripture, where the predictive feature is more extended and the typical element in the transactions which gave rise to it more definite. Such is especially the case with the Messianic psalms, which being of a lyrical character afforded a freer play of the emotions than could be suitably introduced into more formal prophecy. But this, in turn, had its basis in the intimate connection there was between the present and the future, so that the feelings awakened by the one naturally incorporated themselves into the delineations of the other. It was the very institutions of the temporal kingdom in the person and family of David which constituted both the ground and occasion of the predictions concerning Christ’s future kingdom, and how beautifully the type prefigured the antitype it will be our delight yet to notice.
The introduction of the royal scepter into the hands of an Israelitish family produced a radical change in the theocracy, one that was calculated to draw the attention of the people more to the earthly and visible, and remove their minds from the heavenly and eternal. The constitution under which Jehovah, through Moses, had placed them, though it did not absolutely prohibit the appointing of a king, yet was of such a character that it seemed far more likely to suffer than be aided by the allowing of what would consist so largely of the human element. Till the time of Samuel it was strictly a theocracy: a commonwealth that had no recognized head but the Lord Himself, and which placed everything that concerned life and well-being under His immediate government. It was the distinguishing glory of Israel as a nation that they stood in this near relation to God, evoking that outburst of praise from Moses: "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. . . . Happy art thou, O Israel: who like thee, O people saved by the Lord: the shield of thy help" (Deut. 33:27, 29).
But alas! Israel were far too carnal to appreciate the peculiar favor God had shown them, as was made evident when they sought to be like the Gentiles by having a human king of their own. That was tantamount to saying they no longer desired that Jehovah should be their immediate sovereign, that they lusted after a larger measure of self-government. But this was not the only evil likely to result from the proposed change. "Everything under the Old Covenant bore reference to the future and more perfect dispensation of the Gospel; and the ultimate reason of any important feature or material change in respect to the former, can never be understood without taking into account the bearing it might have on the future state and prospects of men under the Gospel. But how could any change in the constitution of ancient Israel, and especially such a change as the people contemplated, when they desired a king after the manner of the Gentiles, be adopted without altering matters in this respect to the worst.
"The dispensation of the Gospel was to be, in a peculiar sense, the ‘kingdom of heaven’ or of God, having for its high end and aim the establishment of a near and blessed intercourse between God and man. It attains to its consummation when the vision seen by St. John, and described after the pattern of the constitution actually set up in the wilderness, comes into fulfillment-when ‘the tabernacle of God is with men, and He dwells with them.’ Of this consummation it was a striking and impressive image that was presented in the original structure of the Israelitish commonwealth, wherein God Himself sustained the office of king, and had His peculiar residence and appropriate manifestations of glory in the midst of His people. And when they, in their carnal affection for a worldly institute, clamored for an earthly sovereign, they not only discovered a lamentable indifference toward what constituted their highest honor, but betrayed also a want of discernment and faith in regard to God’s prospective and ultimate design in connection with their provisional economy" (P. Fairbairn).
In view of what has been before us, it is not to be wondered at that God manifested His displeasure at the fleshly demand for a human king, and that He declared to Samuel that the nation had thereby virtually rejected Himself (1 Sam. 8:7). It is but natural that we should inquire why, then, did the Lord yield to their evil desire? Ali, wondrous indeed are the ways of Him with whom we have to do: the very thing which the people, in their sin, lusted after, served to supply on a lower plain a striking adumbration of the nature and glory which Christ’s kingdom should yet assume on a higher plane. It was the eternal purpose of God that He would ultimately entrust the rule of the universe unto the Man of His own right hand! Thus the divine procedure on this occasion supplies one of the most striking instances found in all the Old Testament of the overruling providence of God, whereby He is able to bring a clean thing out of an unclean.
God not only averted the serious damage which Israel’s demands threatened to do unto the theocracy, but He turned it to good account, in familiarizing the minds of future generations with what was designed to constitute the grand feature of the Messianic kingdom, namely, the Son of God assuming human nature. After the people had been solemnly admonished for their guilt in the appointing of a king after their worldly principles, they were permitted to raise one of their number to the throne, though not as an absolute and independent sovereign, but as the deputy of Jehovah, ruling in the name and in subordination to the will of God; and for this reason his throne was called "the throne of the Lord" (1 Chron. 29:23). But to render His purpose the more evident to those who had eyes to see, the Lord allowed the earthly throne to be first occupied by one who was little disposed to submit to the authority of heaven, and was therefore supplanted by another who, as God’s representative, is over thirty times called His "servant."
It was in this second person, David, that the kingly administration of Israel properly began. He was the root and foundation of the earthly kingdom-as a "kingdom" —in which the divine and the human were officially united, as they were ultimately to be in a hypostatic or personal union. Most remarkably did the shaping providence of God cause the preparatory and typical to shadow forth the ultimate and antitypical, making the various trials through which David passed ere he reached the throne, and the conflicts in which he engaged subsequently, to prefigure throughout the sufferings, work, and kingdom of the Messiah. A whole volume might well be devoted to a full amplification of that statement, showing how, in the broad outlines, the entire history of David possessed a typical significance, so that it was really a prophetic panorama. The same principle applies with equal force to many of his psalms, where we find historical events turned into sacred songs in such a way that they became predictions of what was to be realized by Christ on a grander scale.
It was in this way that what had otherwise tended to veil the purpose of God, and obstruct the principal design of His preparations under the old covenant, was made to be one of the most effective means for revealing and promoting it. "The earthly head, that now under God stood over the members of the commonwealth, instead of overshadowing His authority, only presented this more distinctly to their view, and served as a stepping-stone to faith, in enabling it to rise nearer to the apprehension of that personal indwelling of Godhead, which was to constitute the foundation and the glory of the Gospel dispensation. For occasion was taken to unfold the more glorious future in its practical features with an air of individuality and distinctness, with a variety of detail and vividness of coloring, not to be met with in any other portions of prophetic Scripture" (P. Fairbairn).
As an illustration of this combination of typical history with prophecy, we refer to Psalm 2—which we hope to consult again in a later chapter. It has been termed "an inaugural hymn" designed to celebrate the appointment and triumph of Jehovah’s King. The heathen nations are pictured as opposing (vv. 1, 2), as vowing together that if such an appointment was consummated, they would defy it (v. 3). Notwithstanding, the Most High, disdaining the threats of such puny adversaries (v. 4), accomplishes His counsel. The everlasting decree goes forth that the anointed King is established on Zion; and, because He is God’s own Son, He is made the heir of all things, even to the uttermost limits of the earth (vv. 5-9). The psalm therefore closes with a call to earth’s rulers to submit to the scepter of the King of kings, warning them of the sure doom that would follow defiance.
Before pointing out the obvious connection of this psalm with the life and history of David, let us carefully note the entire absence of any slavish literality. In his elevation to the throne of Israel, David was not opposed by heathen nations and their rulers, for they probably knew little and certainly cared less about it. Again, his being anointed king certainly did not synchronize with his being set on the holy hill of Zion, for there was an interval of some years between them. Moreover, when he was established in the kingdom, there is no record of his pressing the claims of his dominion on other, monarchs, demanding that they pay allegiance to him. We emphasize these points, not to suggest there is any failure in the type, but as a warning against that modern species of literalism which so often reduces Scripture to an absurdity.
Shall we, then, go to an opposite extreme, and say there is no real relation between this Messianic psalm and the life and kingdom of David? Surely not. Certainly it has, and a relation so close that his experiences were the beginning of what, on a higher plane and on a larger scale, was to be accomplished in his Son and Lord. While the language there employed for celebrating the Messianic King and His kingdom rises high above the experiences which pertain to His prototype, yet it bears the impress of them. In both alike we see the sovereign determination on the part of God to the regal office. In each case there is opposition of the most violent and heathenish kind to withstand that appointment—in David’s case, first on the part of Saul, and then of Abner and Ishbosheth. In each case we behold the slow but sure removal of all the obstacles raised against the purpose of God, and the extension of the sphere of empire till it reaches the limits of the divine grant. The lines of history are parallel, the agreement between type and antitype unmistakable.
We recently saw an article which was headed "Humility and the Second Advent"; but after reading through the same, we laid it down with a feeling of disappointment. We had hoped from its title that the writer of it (quite unknown to us) would emphasize the deep need for lowliness of heart when taking up the prophetic Scriptures. God’s holy Word ought ever to be approached with great reverence and sobriety, but particularly is this the case with prophecy, for on no other subject (except it be the vexed question of church government) have God’s servants differed more widely than in their views of things to come. It seems as though God has put not a little into His Word for the express purpose of staining human pride. Certainly, dogmatism ill becomes any of us where so many have erred.
We dare not say it is in a spirit of true humility that we now take up our pen, for the heart is very deceitful, and it generally follows that when we deem ourselves most humble, pride is at work in its subtlest form. It is, however, with considerable diffidence that we continue these chapters on the Davidic covenant, for it presents to me the most difficult aspect of the whole subject. Possibly this is because of my early training, for it is never an easy matter to get quite away from our first thoughts and impressions on a subject. During the years of our spiritual infancy we heard and read nothing but the premillennial interpretation of prophecy, and, of course (as a spiritual child), we readily accepted all that our teachers said. But for the last decade, we have sought to carefully examine what was taught us, and we have discovered that, some of it at least, was but "fairy tales."
Common fairness compelled us to weigh the postmillennial view. In doing so, we recognized a very real danger of allowing our mind to run to an opposite extreme. We are free to admit that, upon a number of important points this system of prophetic interpretation is no more satisfying to us than the "pre"; and therefore at the present time we are not prepared to commit ourselves to the entire position of either the one or the other. Nor does that which is known as amillennialism completely solve the problems. In other words, we now have no definite ideas concerning coming events, applying to ourselves those words of the Lord, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power" (Acts 1:7). But this makes it the more difficult to write on our subject, and we can do so only according to that measure of light which God has vouchsafed us, urging our readers to "prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (1 Thess. 5:21).
We seem to be fully warranted in saying that what serves to divide interpreters of prophecy more than anything else is whether its language is to be taken literally or figuratively. This, of course, opens a wide and most important field of study, into which we must not now enter. Yet we cannot forbear from pointing out that—it certainly seems to me—we have a most solemn warning in the papist perversion of the Lord’s Supper, of the real danger there is of wresting Scripture at the very time we appear to honor it (by "childlike" faith and simplicity) in taking it at its face value. If Rome’s insistence that "this is my body" means just what it says, shows us what serious results follow when mistaking the emblem for the reality which it represents, ought not this to serve as a very real check against the gross carnalizings of chiliasm which literalizes what is spiritual and makes earthly what is heavenly?
The above remarks have been prompted by the promises contained in the Davidic covenant, recorded in 2 Samuel 7:11-16. In view of all that has been before us in connection with the preceding covenants, it is but reasonable to expect that this one too has both a "letter" and a "spirit" significance. This expectation is, we believe, capable of clear demonstration: in their primary and inferior aspects those promises respected Solomon and his immediate successors, but in their ultimate and higher meaning they looked forward to Christ and His kingdom. In the account which David gave to the princes of Israel of the divine communications he had received concerning the throne, he affirmed that God said unto him, "Solomon thy son, he shall build my house and my courts: for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his Father" (1 Chron. 28:6). Yet the application of the same words to Christ Himself— "I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son" (Heb. 1:5) —leaves us in no doubt as to their deeper spiritual import.
The thrice occurrence of "for ever" in 2 Samuel 7:13, 16 obliges us to look beyond the natural posterity of David for the ultimate accomplishment of those promises. God did indeed set the carnal seed of David upon the throne of Israel and establish his kingdom, though certainly not unto all generations. Those who have contended that this covenant of royalty guaranteed to David the occupancy of his throne by one of his own descendants until the coming of the Messiah, take a position which it is impossible to defend—the facts of history flatly contradict them. David transmitted the kingdom of Israel to Solomon, and he in turn to Rehoboam, but there the reign of the family of David over all Israel actually (and so far as I perceive, forever) ceased. Let us enlarge upon this a little.
Rehoboam, by the haughtiness of his bearing and the cruelty of his measures, forfeited the attachment of his subjects. Ten of the tribes revolted unto Jeroboam, being completely dissevered from their brethren, and were never after recovered to their government. Thus, the reign of David’s family over all Israel lasted, from beginning to end, at most but three generations, or about a century. Over Judah alone, his descendants continued to reign for several centuries more, until, at length Nebuchadnezzar invaded and conquered the nation, destroyed Jerusalem, burned the temple, carried the people into captivity, and desolated the whole land. With this overthrow, which occurred some six centuries before the birth of Christ, ended the reign of David even over the tribe of Judah. His literal throne exists no more!
It is true that after the Babylonian captivity, which continued seventy years, a remnant of the people returned and for another century Judah was ruled by Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. The first of these was of the house of David, but both the others belonged to the tribe of Levi! None of them, however, were kings in any sense, but merely governed under foreign authority. During the next two centuries Judah was governed by their high priests, all of whom pertained to the house of Aaron! Meanwhile, the nation was tributary successively to the Persians, Greeks, Egyptians, and Syrians. From the close of this period, until Judea became a Roman province under Herod, when Christ was born, the Jews were under the government of the Asmonian family, known as the Maccabees, all of whom belonged to the priestly tribe. History, then, manifestly refutes that interpretation of the Davidic covenant which asserts that it promised David that his natural seed should reign upon his literal throne until Christ appeared. We are therefore forced to seek another interpretation.
Before considering the spiritual and higher import of the divine promises in the Davidic covenant, further attention must be given to their application unto David’s natural descendants, and particularly in connection with their failures; and here we cannot do better than quote from P. Fairbairn. "On that prophecy (2 Sam. 7:5-17), as on a sure foundation, a whole series of predictions began to be announced, in which the eye of faith was pointed to the bright visions in prospect, and, in particular, to that Child of promise, in whom the succession from David’s loins was to terminate, and who was to reign forever over the heritage of God. But while the appointment itself was absolute, and the original prophecy was so far of the same character, that it indicated no suspension in the sovereignty of David’s house, or actual break in the succession to his throne, David himself knew perfectly that there was an implied condition, which might render such a thing possible, and that the prophecy behooved to be read in the light of those great principles which pervade the whole of the Divine economy.
"Hence, in addition to all he had penned in his Psalms, he gave forth in his dying testimony, for the special benefit of his seed, a description of the ruler, such as the Word of promise contemplated, and such as ought to have been, at least, generally realized in those who occupied the throne of his kingdom: ‘he that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God’ (2 Sam. 23:3). Not only so, but in his last and still more specific charge, delivered to his immediate successor on the throne, he expressly rested his expectation of the fulfillment of the covenant made with him, on the faithful adherence of those who should follow him to the law and testimony of God. For after enjoining Solomon to walk in the ways and keep the statutes of God, he adds as a reason for persuading to such a course, ‘that the Lord may continue His word, which He spake concerning me, saying, If thy children take heed to their way to walk before Me in truth, with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail thee a man on the throne of Israel’ (1 Kings 2:4).
"But when this fundamental condition was violated, as it began to be in the time of Solomon himself, the prophetic word became, in a manner, responsive to the change; so that now it spoke almost in the same language respecting the house of David, which had formerly been addressed to that of Saul—’I will rend the kingdom from thee, and give it to thy servant:’ 1 Kings 11:11 compared with 1 Samuel 15:28; coupled only with the reservation that so much was still to be left to the house of David as was needed for maintaining the essential provisions of the covenant. Even this, however, appeared for a time to give way; the inveterate folly and wickedness of the royal line called forth such visitations of judgment, that the stately and glorious house of David, as it appears in the original prophecy, came afterwards to look like a frail tabernacle, and even this at a still future stage, as fallen prostrate to the ground-according to the figure in Amos 9:11.
"In consequence of these changes, darkness settled down on the hearts of God’s people, and fearful misgivings arose in their minds concerning the faithfulness of God to His covenant engagements. The painful question was stirred in their bosoms, ‘Has His promise failed for evermore?’ The thought even escaped from their lips, ‘He has made void the covenant of His servant.’ The whole Psalm from which these words are taken (the 89th), is a striking record of the manner in which faith had to struggle with such doubts and perplexities, when the house of David was (for a time) cast down from its excellency, and God’s plighted word, like the ark of His covenant, seemed to be given up into the hands of His enemies.
"God, however, vindicated in due time the truthfulness of His word, and the certainty of the result which it contemplated. The prophecy stood fast as regarded the grand article of its provisions-only in travelling on to its accomplishment, it had to pass through apparent defections and protracted delays, which could scarcely have been anticipated from the terms of its original announcement, and which were, in a sense, forced on it by human unbelief and waywardness. And so, within certain definite limits-those, namely, which connected the Divine promise with the sphere of man’s responsibility, and bore on the time and mode of its fulfillment—it might justly be said to carry a conditional element in its bosom, in respect to those whom it more immediately concerned; while still, from first to last, the great purpose which it enshrined, varied not and continued to be, as a determinate counsel of Heaven, without shadow of turning."
We must not here anticipate too much what we hope to yet take up in detail, but in bringing this chapter to a close it is pertinent to point out that, in view of what was before us in the previous chapter-on the terms of Messianic prophecy being cast, more or less, in the mold of the typical history of Israel—we surely should not repeat the mistake of the carnal Jews, who expected Christ to sit on an earthly throne. When Old Testament prediction announced that the Messiah was to occupy the throne and kingdom of David, was it not intimated that He was to rule over God’s heritage, and accomplish spiritually and perfectly what His prototype did but temporally and partially namely, bring deliverance, security, and everlasting blessing to the people of God? In view of the divine personality of the Messianic King and the worldwide extent of His kingdom, all of necessity rises to a higher plane, Immanuel’s reign must be of another order than that of the son of Jesse-spiritual, heavenly, eternal.
It should be quite obvious to those who are really acquainted with the earlier Scriptures that, in keeping with the character and times of the old covenant, any representation then made of Christ’s throne and kingdom would, in the main at least, be of a figurative and symbolic nature, exhibited under the veil of the typical images supplied by Israel’s commonwealth and history. It was thus that all the "better" things of the new covenant were shadowed forth. The immeasurable superiority of Christ’s person over all who were His types compels us to look for a far grander and nobler discharge of His offices than which pertained unto them. It is true there is a resemblance between Christ as prophet and Moses (Deut. 18:18); nevertheless the contrast is far more evident (Heb. 3:3, 5). It is true that there is an agreement between Christ as priest and Melchizedek and Aaron (Heb. 5:1-5; 7:21); nevertheless the antitype far excels them (Rev. 5:6, etc.). So the throne He sits on and the kingdom He administers is infinitely higher than any that David or Solomon ever occupied (Heb. 2:9; 1:3). Beware of degrading the divine King to the level of human ones!
The Lord of glory no more stood (or stands) in need of any outward enthronement or local seat of government on earth, in order to prove His title to David’s kingdom, than He required any physical "anointing" to constitute Him priest forever, or a material altar for the due presentation of His sacrifice to God. As another has well said, "Being the Son of the living God, and as such, the Heir of all things, He possessed from the first all the powers of the kingdom, and proved that He possessed them by every word He uttered, every work of deliverance He performed, every judgment He pronounced, every act of mercy and forgiveness He dispensed, and the resistless control He wielded over the elements of nature and the realms of the dead. These were the signs of royalty He bore about with Him upon earth; and wonderful though they were, eclipsing in real grandeur all the glory of David and Solomon, they were still but the earlier preludes of that peerless majesty which David described from afar when he saw Him, as the Lord, seated in royal state at His Father’s right hand."
In the preceding chapter we pointed out that in view of all which has been before us in connection with the earlier covenants, it is but reasonable to expect that the Davidic one also has both a "letter" and "spirit" significance. This expectation is, we believe, capable of clear demonstration: in their primary and inferior aspects the promises in 2 Samuel 7:11-16 respected Solomon and his immediate successors, but in their higher and ultimate meaning, they looked forward to Christ and His kingdom. And is not this fact evident from the immediate sequel? Does not that which is recorded in 2 Samuel 7:18-25 plainly intimate that David himself was enabled to perceive the spiritual purport of those promises, that they had to do with Christ Himself? There is not a doubt in my mind that such was the case, and we shall now endeavor to make this clear to the reader.
"Then went king David in, and sat before the Lord" (2 Sam. 7:18). His posture was, we think, indicative of the earnest consideration which David was giving to the message he had just received. As he pondered the divine promises and surveyed the wondrous riches of divine grace toward him, he burst forth in self-effacing and Godhonoring language: "And he said, ‘Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?" (v. 18). Why, his "house" pertained to the royal tribe: he was the direct descendant of the prince of Judah, so that he was connected with one of the most honorable families in all Israel. Yes, but such fleshly distinctions were now held very lightly by him. "Brought me hitherto": why, he had been brought to the throne itself, and given rest from all his enemies (7:1). Yes, but these faded into utter insignificance before the far greater things of which Nathan had prophesied.
"And this was yet a small thing in thy sight, O Lord God; but thou hast spoken also of thy servant’s house for a great while to come. And is this the manner of men, O Lord God? And what can David say more unto thee? for thou, Lord God, knowest thy servant" (vv. 19, 20). Here again we see the effect which the Lord’s message had wrought upon the mind of David. "He beheld in spirit another Son than Solomon, another Temple than one built of stones and cedar, another Kingdom than the earthly one, on whose throne he sat. He perceived a sceptre and a crown of which his own on mount Zion were only feeble types-dim and shadowy manifestations" (Krummacher’s David and the Godman). That the patriarch David understood the whole of those promises to receive their fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ, is evident from his next utterance.
"For thy Word’s sake, and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all these great things, to make thy servant to know them" (v. 21). The reference was to the personal Word, Him of whom it is declared, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1); and "according to thine own heart" meant according to God’s gracious counsels. That David was not referring to God’s spoken or written Word is evident from the fact that nothing of the kind had been uttered to him before, while of the written Word there was no Scripture then extant which predicted Christ, either personal or mystical, under the similitude of a "house." Let it be duly noted that all later references in Scripture to Christ under this figure are borrowed from and based upon this very passage. Unto David in vision was then given the first revelation, and hence it is that in that wondrous 89th Psalm we have other great features of it more particularly marked.
"I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations. For I have said, Mercy shall be built up forever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens. I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, Thy seed will I establish forever, and build up thy throne to all generations. Selah" (Ps. 89:1-4). Of that oath, God the Holy Spirit was graciously pleased to tell the church by the mouth of Peter on the day of Pentecost: "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" (Acts 2:30). Here, then, is the most decided and express proof that not David’s son Solomon, nor any of the seed of Adam after the flesh, but to Christ Himself 2 Samuel 7:11-16 definitely alluded. David fully understood it so, that it was of Christ and Him alone the promises referred, and it was this which so overwhelmed his mind and moved him to burst forth with such expressions of humility.
What has just been before us supplies an illustration of the fact that all the patriarchs and saints of Old Testament times lived and died in the faith of Christ: "not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them" (Heb. 11:13). Hence it was that by faith, with an eye to Christ, Abel offered unto God an acceptable sacrifice. Hence by faith, Noah prepared an ark, as beholding Christ set forth therein as a hiding place from the wind and a covert from the tempest. Hence too, by faith Abraham offered up his only-begotten son, expressly with an eye to the offering of God’s only-begotten Son in the fullness of time. Therefore it was that David eyed Christ in the promises of God to build him a house, in the confidence whereof he took comfort amidst all the sad circumstances of himself and his children (2 Sam. 23:5).
These holy men of old, and all the faithful in each generation of the church before the coming of Christ, lived in the blessed assurance of that faith. They beheld the promises afar off, yet that did not have the slightest effect in lessening their conviction in the veracity of them. Their faith gave to them a present subsistence: it substantiated and realized them, as if those saints had the fulfillment in actual possession, just as a powerful telescope will bring near to the eye objects far remote. Their faith gave as great an assurance of the reality of what God promised as though they had lived in the days when the Son of God became incarnate and tabernacled among men. In like manner, it is only by the exercise of a similar faith that we can now have a real knowledge of Christ by union and communion with Him.
Before we give further consideration to the contents of Psalm 89—which supplies a divine exposition of the promises made to David in 1 Samuel 7—we must first turn again to Psalm 2. As C. H. Spurgeon said in his introductory remarks thereon, "We shall not greatly err in our summary of this sublime Psalm if we call it ‘The Psalm of Messiah the Prince, for it sets forth, as in a wondrous vision, the tumult of the people against the Lord’s Anointed, the determinate purpose of God to exalt His own Son, and the ultimate reign of that Son over all His enemies. Let us read it with the eye of faith, beholding, as in a glass, the final triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ over all His enemies."
This second psalm is divided into four sections of three verses each. The first tells of the widespread opposition to the kingdom and government of Christ: His enemies cannot endure His yoke and they rebel against His commandments; these verses (1-3) were applied by Peter under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to the opposition which Christ met with and the indignities that He suffered at the hands of the Jews and Gentiles (see Acts 4:24-27). The second section of it reveals God’s utter contempt of those who sought to thwart His purpose: He derides their foolish counsels and puny efforts, and makes known the accomplishment of His will. He does not smite them, but gallingly announces that He has performed what they sought to prevent. "While they are proposing, He has disposed the matter. Jehovah’s will is done, and so man’s will frets and fumes in vain. God’s Anointed is appointed, and shall not be disappointed" (C. H. Spurgeon).
"Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion" (Ps. 2:6). It is the investiture of Christ in His kingly office which is here in view. Just as Jehovah defeated the efforts of all his enemies and set the son of Jesse on the throne, making him king in Jerusalem over all Israel, so He raised His own Son from the dead, exalted Him as head of the church, and seated Him as victorious King upon His mediatorial throne, and therefore did the risen Redeemer declare, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18). Scholars tell us that "Zion" is derived from tzun, which means "a monument raised up." Such indeed is the church of God: a monument of grace now, and of glory hereafter; raised up to all eternity. It was there that David built his city, a type of the City of God in Christ. It was there that Solomon built the temple, a type also of Christ’s mystical body. Hence, when we read, "The Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it" (Isa.. 14:32), when we hear Him saying, "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation" (Isa.. 28:16—the Holy Spirit moving an apostle to tell the church that this is Christ: 1 Peter 2:6-8), and when with the eye of faith we behold "a Lamb stood on mount Zion, and with him a hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads" (Rev. 14:1), who can refrain from exclaiming, "Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Zion" (Ps. 65:1).
It seems strange that any should question the fact, or, shall we say, challenge the statement, that even now the Lord Jesus is King and discharging His royal office. The whole burden of the Epistle to the Hebrews is the proffering of proof that He is Priest "after the order of Melchizedek": that is, Priest-King. Collateral confirmation of this is found in the statement that believers are "a royal priesthood" (1 Peter 2:9), and they are so only because of their union with the antitypical Melchizedek. Christ has already been "crowned," not with an earthly or material diadem, but "with glory and with honour" (Heb. 2:9). He has "sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high," and therefore is He "upholding all things by the word of his power" (Heb. 1:3). The "sceptre of righteousness" is wielded by Him (Heb. 1:8), "ambassadors" have been sent forth by Him (2 Cor. 5:20), and both men and angels are subject to Him.
Christ is the King of His enemies, and He shall reign till He has placed the last of them beneath His feet. "Who would not fear thee, O king of nations" (Jer. 10:7). True, many of them do not own His scepter, yea, some deny His very being; nevertheless He is their sovereign, "the prince of the kings of the earth" (Rev. 1:5), and this because God has already "highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name" (Phil. 2:9). This was the reward for His sufferings: the head that once was crowned with thorns is crowned with glory now: a royal diadem adorns the mighty victor’s brow. "He hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords" (Rev. 19:16). Ali, my reader, what are all the great, the mighty, and honorable men of the earth in comparison with Him who is "the only Potentate" (1 Tim. 6:15).
Again: Christ is King of the church: "The King of saints" (Rev. 15:3). He is King of the evil and King of the good: He is King over the former, He is King in the latter. Christ rules over the wicked by His might and power; He rules in the righteous by His Spirit and grace. This latter is His spiritual kingdom, where He reigns in the hearts of His own, where His sovereignty is acknowledged, His scepter kissed, His laws heeded. This is brought about by the miracle of regeneration, whereby lawless rebels are transformed into loyal subjects. As the King of Zion Christ exercises His royal authority by appointing officers, both ordinary and extraordinary, for His church (see Eph. 4:11, 12). It is the prerogative of the king to nominate and call those who serve him in the government of his kingdom: this Christ does. He also exerts His royal authority by ordering His officers in their governing of His subjects to teach no other things than those He has commanded (Matthew 28:19). Oh, that both writer and reader may render to Him that allegiance and fealty which are His due!
Finally, be it noted that Christ is the Father’s King, and this in at least three respects. First, by the Father’s appointing: "I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me" (Luke 22:29). Christ is eminently qualified to bear the government upon His shoulder; and being infinitely dear to the Father this honor He delighted to confer upon Him. Second, by the Father’s investiture: "I have set my King upon my holy hill of Zion." God has entrusted Christ with the sole administration of government and judgment: "And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man" (John 5:27). Third, because Christ rules for His Father: to fulfill His purpose, to glorify His name. That Christ rules for His Father is clear from, "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father" (1 Cor. 15:24). It is the Father’s kingdom; and therefore do we pray, "Thy kingdom come," that is, in its fuller open manifestation. Yet it is the Son’s kingdom (Col. 1:14) because administered by Him Christ’s power as the King of Zion is absolute and universal. Alas that this is now so dimly perceived and so feebly apprehended by many of those bearing His name. Dispensationalists will have much to answer for in the coming Day, for by denying His present kingship, postponing His rule unto "the millennium," they both rob Him of His personal honors and deprive us of precious comfort. Christ is sovereign, supreme over all creatures. He bridles both man and demons, saying to them, as He does to the proud waves of the sea, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further." As the King of Zion, Christ has His chain about the necks of Satan and all his wicked instruments; and when they have gone their appointed lengths, they are obliged to stop. We see this in the case of job: when the devil was permitted to harass him, he went only so far as his chain allowed. So it is now.
This royal and absolute power of Christ He is exercising in protecting His church in the midst of grave and imminent dangers. A vivid portrayal of this was made unto Moses when Christ appeared to him in the burning bush. He saw the bush burning in the midst of the fire; yet it was not consumed. That represented the situation of the church in Egypt at that time: under the tyranny of most cruel taskmasters, lorded over by Pharaoh who hated them and thirsted for their annihilation. Yet under the care of Christ, He delivered them from being swallowed up by their enemies. This He has done in all ages, shielding His people when their foes threatened to swallow them up.
In the third section of Psalm 2 Christ is heard declaring His sovereign rights, with the Father’s response thereto. We would recommend those who have access to the works of John Newton to read his sermon on Psalm 2:9. Therein he has shown how that, since Christ’s enemies will not submit to the golden scepter of His grace, they are under His iron rod. This iron rule over them consists, first, in the certain and inseparable connection He has established between sin and misery: where the Lord does not dwell, peace will not inhabit. Second, in His power over conscience: what awful thoughts and fears sometimes awaken them in the silent hours of the night! Third, in that terrible blindness and hardness of heart to which some sinners are given up.
In the opening chapter of this study it was pointed out that the various covenants which God entered into with men, from time to time, adumbrated different features of the everlasting covenant which He made with the Mediator ere time began. As we have followed the historical stream it has been shown wherein the Adamic, the Noahic, and the Sinaitic covenants shadowed forth the essential features of that eternal compact which constituted the basis of the salvation of God’s elect. In connection with the Davidic it is observable there is an absence of those details which marked the earlier ones, that renders it less easy to determine the exact purpose and purport of it so far as the "letter" of it was concerned. Yet the reason for this is not far to seek: as the last of the Old Testament covenants, the type merged more definitely with the antitype. This becomes the more patent when we examine carefully those Scriptures bearing directly thereon, for in some of them it is almost impossible to say whether the type or the antitype be before us.
A notable instance of this is furnished by Psalm 89. Though we cannot be sure of the precise time when it was first penned, there seems good reason to conclude that it is to be dated from the reign of Rehoboam. Its closing verses make it quite plain that it was written at a period when the honor and power of David’s royal line had been reduced to a very low ebb; yet before the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple-for no hint of that calamity is here given. It was in the days of Rehoboam ten of the tribes revolted from him; and that the one placed over them because his powerful adversary, while the king of Egypt so weakened and humbled him that it appears he only retained his kingdom at all by the clemency of Shishak. A sad condition had arrived, for the fortunes of David’s family had sunk to a deplorable degree.
It was under such circumstances Psalm 89 was composed. That its writer was fearfully agitated appears from its last fourteen verses, though perhaps he was there voicing the general sentiment which then obtained. Everything looked as though the divine promises to David had failed and were on the eve of being made completely void. It was then that faith had its opportunity, and ignoring the black clouds which covered the firmament, took refuge in Him who dwelleth above it. It was in the covenant faithfulness of the Father of mercies that the psalmist now found comfort. "I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever: with my mouth will I make known of thy faithfulness to all generations. For I have said, Mercy shall be built up forever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens. I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant: thy seed will I establish forever, and build up thy throne to all generations. Selah" (Ps. 89:1-4).
One view only has obtained among the spiritually minded. Said the Puritan Brooks, "There are many passages in the Psalm which do clearly evidence it is to be interpreted of Christ, yea there are many things in this Psalm which cannot be clearly and pertinently applied to any but Christ." Toplady (author of the hymn "Rock of Ages") asked, "Do you suppose this was spoken of David in his own person only? No indeed, but to David as type and forerunner of Christ." "The whole contexture of the Psalm discovers the design of it to be to set forth some higher Person than David, for it seems to be too magnificent and lofty for an earthly prince" (S. Charnock). "The whole of the 89th Psalm, which is altogether devoted to the covenant, is expressly said to be a vision in which Jehovah spake to His Holy One (v. 19), and all the purport of it is to show how Jehovah had entered into covenant engagement with Christ for the redemption of His people" (Robert Hawker).
Psalm 89, then, is the key to 2 Samuel 7:4-17. Not only does it unlock for us the meaning of the Davidic covenant, but it also fixes the interpretation of those passages in the prophets which obviously look back to and are based upon the same. "The covenant is made with David, the covenant of royalty is made with him, as the father of his family, and all his seed through him, and for his sake, representing the Covenant of Grace made with Christ as Head of the Church, and with all believers in Him. . . . The blessings of the covenant were not only secured to David himself, but were entailed on his family. It was promised that his family should continue-‘thy seed will I establish forever,’ so that ‘David shall not want a son to reign’ (Jer. 33:17). And that it should continue a royal family: ‘I will build up his throne to all generations.’ This has its accomplishment only in Christ" (Matthew Henry).
"I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant" (v. 3). "David was the Lord’s elect, and with him a covenant was made, which ran along in the line of his seed until it received a final and never-ending fulfillment in ‘the Son of David.’ David’s house must be royal: as long as there was a sceptre in Judah, David’s seed must be the only rightful dynasty; the great ‘King of the Jews’ died with that title above His head in the three current languages of the then known world, and at this day He is owned as King by men of every tongue. The oath sworn to David has not been broken, though the temporal crown is no longer worn, for in the covenant itself his kingdom was spoken of as enduring forever. In Christ Jesus there is a covenant established with all the Lord’s chosen, and they are by grace led to be the Lord’s servants, and then are ordained kings and priests by Jesus Christ .... After reading this (2 Sam. 7:12-16), let us remember that the Lord has said to us by His servant Isaiah, ‘I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David’ " (C. H. Spurgeon).
"Thy seed will I establish forever, and build up thy throne to all generations" (v. 4). "David must always have a seed, and truly in Jesus this is fulfilled beyond his hopes. What a seed David has in the multitude which have sprung from Him who was both his Son and his Lord. The Son of David is the great Progenitor, the last Adam, the everlasting Father, He sees His seed, and in them beholds of the travail of His soul. David’s dynasty never decays, but on the contrary, is evermore consolidated by the great Architect of heaven and earth. Jesus is a king as well as a progenitor, and His throne is ever being built up-His kingdom comes-His power extends. Thus runs the covenant: and when the Church declines, it is ours to plead it before the ever-faithful God, as the Psalmist does in the latter verses of this sacred song. Christ must reign, but why is His name blasphemed and His Gospel so despised? The more gracious Christians are, the more will they be moved to jealousy by the sad estate of the Redeemer’s cause, and the more will they argue the case with the great Covenant-maker, crying day and night before Him, ‘Thy kingdom come’ " (C. H. Spurgeon).
We shall not proceed any further with a verse by verse comment of this psalm, but rather seek to call attention to its more essential features, as they serve to elucidate the Davidic covenant. The first section of the psalm closes with the declaration, "Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne." This has reference to the mediatorial throne of God in Christ, as is clear from the remainder of the verse and what follows: justice and judgment are the establishment (margin) of His throne-the firmest foundations on which any throne can be settled. The Son of God, as the surety of His elect, undertook to satisfy divine justice, by rendering perfect obedience to the precepts of the law and by suffering its penalty, whereby He brought in everlasting righteousness. God’s administration of grace, then, is founded upon the complete satisfaction of His justice by Christ as the sponsor of His people (Rom. 3:24-26; 5:21).
Having at some length praised the God of Israel by celebrating His perfections, the psalmist next declared the happiness of the true Israel of God, closing with the blessed affirmation, "For the Lord is our defense, and the Holy One of Israel is our king" (v. 18). The people that "know the joyful sound" (v. 15) are they whose ears have been opened by the Spirit to take in the glad tidings of the gospel, so that they understand the covenant promises and perceive their own personal interest therein. They walk in the light of Jehovah’s countenance, for they are accepted in the Beloved. In God’s righteousness they shall continue to be exalted, for divine justice is on their side and not against them. In God’s favor their horn or spirit shall be elevated, for nothing so exhilarates the heart as a realization of God’s free grace. As their King, the Holy One of Israel will both rule and protect them.
At verse 19 the psalmist returns to a consideration of the covenant which God made with David, enlarging upon his previous reference thereto; and pleading it before God for His favor unto the royal family, now almost ruined. Yet one has only to weigh the things here said to perceive that they go far beyond the typical David; yea, some of them could scarcely apply to him at all, but receive their fulfillment in Christ and His spiritual seed. The covenant which God made with the son of Jesse was an outward adumbration of that eternal compact He had entered into with the Mediator on behalf of His people: it was a publishing on earth something of what transpired in the secret councils of heaven. The ultimate reference in "Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one" is unto the Father’s intercourse with the Son before time began (see Prov. 8:22, 23, 30; Matthew 11:27; John 5:20).
"I have laid help upon one that is mighty" (v. 19). How fully was that demonstrated in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection! He was mighty because He is the Almighty (Rev. 1:8). As God the Son in personal union with the Son of Man, He was in every way qualified for His stupendous undertaking. None but He could magnify the law and make it honorable, make atonement for sin, vanquish death, bruise the serpent’s head, and so preserve His church on earth that the gates of Hades should not prevail against it. As this mighty one, "the Lion of the tribe of Judah," the apostle John beheld Him in the Patmos visions (Rev. 5:5). Because He is such, therefore "he is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him" (Heb. 7:25).
"I have exalted one chosen out of the people" (v. 19). It is this, essentially, which qualifies Christ to occupy the mediatorial throne, for not only is He "the mighty God" (Isa. 9:6), but as the woman’s seed (Gen. 3:15) He has taken unto Himself our very nature: "In all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest" (Heb. 2:17). One of the titles by which God addresses the redeemer is, "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect [or chosen in whom my soul delighteth" (Isa.. 42:1). And this blessed one God has exalted to His own right hand.
"I have found David my servant: with my holy oil I anointed him" (v. 20). "This must also be expounded of the Prince Emmanuel: He became the Servant of the Lord for our sakes, the Father having found for us in His person a mighty Deliverer, therefore upon Him rested the Spirit without measure, to qualify Him for all the offices of love to which He was set apart. We have not a Savior self-appointed and unqualified, but one sent of God and Divinely endowed for His work. Our Savior Jesus is also the Lord’s Christ, or anointed. The oil with which He is anointed is God’s own oil, and holy oil; He is Divinely endowed with the Spirit of holiness-cf. Luke 4:18" (Spurgeon). In the prophets Christ is called "David" again and again, the name meaning "the Beloved," for He is most dearly beloved of the Father. "He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God" (v. 26). Where is there any record that David ever addressed God by this endearing term? Obviously the reference is to Him who, on the morning of His resurrection, declared, "I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God" (John 20:17). "Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth" (v. 27). This too is intelligible only of the true David, who must have the preeminence in all things. Christ was made higher than the kings of the earth when God seated Him at His own right hand in the heavens, "far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named" (Eph. 1:20, 21).
"His seed also will I make to endure forever" (v. 29). Here again, the type loses itself in the antitype. Literally, David’s seed lives on forever in the person of Christ, who was made of David according to the flesh (Rom. 1:3). But spiritually, it is the seed of the true David, namely, believers; for they alone own His scepter and are His subjects. "Saints are a race that neither death nor hell can kill" (Spurgeon). Of old it was declared of Christ, "He shall see his seed .... He shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied" (Isa.. 53:10, 11). In a coming Day, Christ shall exclaim, "Behold I and the children which God hath given me" (Heb. 2:13). "And his throne as the days of heaven" (v. 29). Let it be duly noted that both here and in verse 36 Christ’s "seed" and His "throne" are coupled together, as though His throne could not stand if His seed should fail. Well did Charnock ask: "If His subjects should perish, what would He be King of? If His members should consume, what would He be head of?" It is His mediatorial throne and its perpetuity which are here in view: on the new earth there will be "the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Rev. 22:1).
If any doubt remains in the reader’s mind as to the accuracy or truth of our interpretation above, that which is recorded in verses 30-37 should at once completely remove it. Nothing could be plainer than that the believing children of the antitypical David are there in view. In this most previous passage God makes known His ways—the principles according to which He deals with the redeemed: operative in all dispensations. Christ’s children still have a sinful nature, and thus are ever prone to forsake God’s law, yet even though they do so this will not annul the promises which God made to them in Christ. True, God is holy, and therefore will not wink at their sins; He is righteous, and so chastises them for their iniquities; but He is also both faithful and gracious, and so will not break His word to Christ, nor take away His loving-kindness from those for whom His Son died.
God had declared, "I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant: Thy seed will I establish forever" (vv. 3, 4). Yes; but suppose David’s seed should prove thoroughly unworthy and unfaithful-what then? Will God cast them out of His covenant? No indeed: this is why verses 30, 31 began with "If": an objection is anticipated, the Arminian bogie of falling from grace and being lost is here laid by the heels. If the seed of the antitypical David break God’s statutes and keep not His commandments, will divine rejection and eternal destruction be their inevitable portion? No; God will make them smart severely for their perverseness, yet it is the disciplinary rod He uses, and not the sword or axe of the executioner. God is not fickle: whom He loves, He loves forever; and therefore neither man nor Satan shall ever destroy any of the seed of the true David.
In the preceding chapter it was pointed out how that the historical account of the Davidic covenant lacks that fulness of detail which marked the earlier ones: the reason for this being, the nearer the approach unto the advent of Christ the more the type merged into the antitype. It was also shown how that Psalm 89 supplies us with the divine interpretation of the promises given through the prophet Nathan to the son of Jesse. The superlative importance of this fact cannot be too strongly insisted upon, for it settles the vexing question as to the character and location of Christ’s throne and kingdom. It is here that we are furnished with clear and conclusive answers to the questions and disputes which have been raised concerning the terms found in 2 Samuel 7:11-16.
What we are most anxious to make clear to the reader is this: is the seed promised to David in 2 Samuel 7:12 a carnal or a mystical one? Is His kingdom (v. 12) an earthly or a heavenly one? Is His house and throne a material or spiritual one? If one of these questions can be definitely and finally settled, then the others will be, for it is obvious that the passage must be dealt with consistently throughout. All is to be understood literally or all mystically, carnally or spiritually. Now all doubt is removed as to the answer to the first question: the seed promised to David, like the seed promised to Abraham (Gal. 3:7, 16) is a mystical one; that is to say, it finds its accomplishment not in Christ personally, but in Christ mystically, that is, Christ together with the members of His body-the church of which He is the head. The proof of this is found in Psalm 89.
In 11 Samuel 7 God promised David, "I will set up thy seed after thee. . . . 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" (vv. 12-14). In Psalm 89 God declared, "I have found David my servant. . . . He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father . . . my covenant shall stand fast with him .... If his children forsake my law then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes" (vv. 20, 26, 28, 29, 31). Nothing could be plainer than this: the "if he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod" of 2 Samuel 7:14 is here changed to "I will visit their transgressions with the rod." Thus the seed of David is Christ and His children. Their absolute identification is further emphasized in "I will visit their transgressions with the rod, nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not take from him" (vv. 32, 33). Thus, the Redeemer and the redeemed are inseparably linked, for together they form one (mystical) body.
The grand promise made to David in 2 Samuel 7 was that though his seed should commit iniquity God’s mercy would "not depart away from him," but that his house and kingdom should be "established forever" (vv. 14-16). It was no fleshly or earthly blessing, but a spiritual and eternal one. Therein it differs radically from what had gone before. Both Adam in Eden and Israel in Canaan had forfeited their heritage, but the inheritance Christ secured for His people is an inalienable one. This is made so prominent in Psalm 89: of Christ God declared, "His seed also will I make to endure forever" (v. 29). This is God’s covenant engagement with the Mediator, and no failure or sin on the part of His people shall cause God to cancel it. True, He will severely chastise them for their transgressions—for in God’s family the rod is not spared nor the children spoiled-but He will not cast them off as incorrigible rebels. The atonement of Christ fully met all their liabilities; and as He enjoys God’s favor forever, so must those vitally united to Him.
The same grand feature marks the throne and kingdom of Christ, distinguishing it from all that pertains to the earth: "I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever" (2 Sam. 7:13). That there should be no uncertainty on this point, God repeats: "Thy throne shall be established forever" (v. 16). It is no temporal and temporary throne which the true David occupies, enduring only for a thousand years; as the New Testament expressly declares, "Of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:33). The same grand truth is emphasized in Psalm 89; "And his throne as the days of heaven" (v. 29)-not "as the days of earth." "His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before me; it shall be established forever as the moon" (vv. 36, 37): the most enduring objects in nature are selected as the figure and proof of the absoluteness of the perpetuity affirmed. That Christ’s kingdom is celestial and not earthly is seen in "and as a faithful witness in heaven" (v. 37).
Another psalm which casts its light upon the character and contents of the Davidic covenant is the 132nd, upon which we must offer a few remarks. It has two divisions. In the first (vv. 1-10) there is a pleading with Jehovah to be merciful unto His people "for David’s sake" (v. 10); in the second section (vv. 11-18) we have His response, promising, "I will make the horn of David to bud, upon himself shall his crown flourish" (vv. 17, 18). In the first, God is reminded of David’s deep concern to supply a permanent house for the holy ark; in the second, the Lord declares that He has found a satisfying and eternal resting place in Zion. In the first, prayer is made that God’s priests might be "clothed with righteousness"; in the second, God affirms that He will clothe His priests "with salvation." The second half strictly balances the first throughout.
Now that which invests this 132nd Psalm with particular interest for us is what is found therein concerning God’s resting place and the relation of this to the Davidic covenant. It will be remembered that 2 Samuel 7 opens with an account of David’s anxiety to provide a suitable residence for the ark, and that it was in response thereto Nathan made such a wondrous and gracious revelation to him. Let it be duly noted that among the covenant promises which God then made to David concerning the blessed one who (according to the flesh) should descend from him, was this declaration: "He shall build a house for my name"; and to Him God says, "Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever" (vv. 13, 16). Like the throne and kingdom mentioned in the same passage, this house is not material, earthly, and temporal, but a spiritual, heavenly, and eternal one; it is no mere Jewish temple for "the millennium," but a divine dwelling place for the ages of the ages.
The tabernacle, as is well known, was the symbol of God’s residing among the covenant people and of the divine fellowship to which He had graciously admitted them. This symbolical significance was transferred to the temple, with the additional idea-suggested by its very structure-of durability and permanency. With this place of worship the throne of David was indissolubly bound up. The destruction of the temple only became possible as the effect of the confirmed apostasy of the occupants of David’s throne, and its restoration was only to be expected as the work of someone of the royal race being brought into renewed fellowship with God. This is verified in the reconstruction of the second temple by Zerubbabel. The symbol, however, was the type of something higher: the true temple of God is the sanctified hearts of His saints. It is with His spiritual church that the throne of David, as occupied by the Redeemer, is permanently and inseparably united.
The kingdom of Christ and the house of God are one and the same, viewed from different angles. It is the redeemed who constitute the true subjects of Christ’s kingdom, for they alone own His scepter: where there are no subjects, there can be no kingdom. And it is the redeemed who provide God with a satisfying resting place. In the later prophets it was expressly foretold, "Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The Branch: and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord: even he shall build the temple of the Lord, and he shall bear the glory" (Zech. 6:12, 13). Now the true house in which God dwells is a spiritual one, composed of living stones, converted souls, which is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord" (Eph. 1:20, 21).
Returning to Psalm 132. "The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David: He will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne. If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon thy throne for evermore" (vv. 11, 12). These verses make it clear beyond all doubt that our psalm has to do directly with the Davidic covenant. In their "letter" significance, they respected David’s throne upon earth and the condition which determined its continuance—a condition which was not met by his descendants. In their spiritual purport they concern the antitypical David and His children, His infinite merits assuring that God would grant the needed grace for them to render to Him that obedience which the new covenant required namely, a real and sincere one, though not flawless and perfect. (This will be carefully considered by us when we take up the new covenant.) Such Scriptures as the following are to be pondered for the fulfillment of this promise of Christ’s children occupying His throne: Luke 22:29, 30; 1 Cor. 6:2, 3; 1 Peter 2:9 ("a royal priesthood"); Revelation 3:21.
"For the Lord hath chosen Zion: he bath desired it for his habitation" (v. 13). "It was no more than any other Canaanite town till God chose it, David captured it, Solomon built it, and the Lord dwelt in it. So was the Church a mere Jebusite stronghold till grace chose it, conquered it, rebuilt it, and dwelt in it. Jehovah has chosen His people, and hence they are His people; He has chosen the Church, and hence it is what it is. Thus in the covenant David and Zion, Christ and His people, go together. David is for Zion, and Zion for David; the interests of Christ and His people are mutual" (C. H. Spurgeon). In Hebrews 12:22 the kingdom of Christ is expressly denominated "Mount Zion."
"This is my rest forever. Here will I dwell; for I have desired it" (v. 14). "Again are we filled with wonder that He who fills all things should dwell in Zion—should dwell in His Church. God does not unwillingly visit His chosen; He desires to dwell with them; He desires them. He is already in Zion, for He says here, as one upon the spot. Not only will He occasionally come to His Church, but He will dwell in it, as His fixed abode. He cared not for the magnificence of Solomon’s temple, but He determined that at the mercy-seat He would be found by suppliants, and from thence He would shine forth in brightness of grace among the favored nation. All this, however, was but a type of the spiritual house, of which Jesus is foundation and cornerstone, upon which all the living stones are budded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. O the sweetness of the thought that God desires to dwell in His people and rest among them!" (C. H. Spurgeon).
If further proof be required that the church is the dwelling place of God, it is forthcoming in "that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). Here, then, is the ultimate accomplishment of those promises God made through Nathan. The antitypical David has built the house for God’s name (2 Sam. 7:13; cf. his use of the word "build" in Matt. 16:18). Unto Him God said, "Throe house and thy kingdom shall be estabfished forever" (2 Sam. 7:16); for the Father and the Son are one. In this House the Lord Jesus presides, for we read, "But Christ as a son over his own house: whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" (Heb. 3:6). When the first heaven and the first earth are passed away, it shall be said, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God" (Rev. 21:3). The Lord God will then "rest in his love" (Zeph. 3:17).
Nor was David himself left in ignorance as to the higher and spiritual purport of the covenant promises which the Lord had made to him. This appears first in the expressions of his deep wonderment and overwhelming gratitude at the time they were first made to him (2 Sam. 7:18-29): "Thou bast also spoken of thy servant’s house for a great while to come," he declared, language which connotes a period of vast extent, far in excess of that covered by the lengthiest human dynasties. Then he added, "Is this the manner [or "law," margin] of man, O Lord God?" Christ’s kingdom shall be ordered by a principle securing for it a perpetuity which was wholly inapplicable to any human rule, and therefore all pertaining to His kingdom obviously stands in marked contrast from the established order of things which belongs to all merely human dynasties.
David’s own understanding of the deeper import of the contents of the covenant also appears in those Messianic psalms of which he was the author. As we have already seen, in Psalm 2 David declares of that one whom God was to establish King in Zion, that He would possess the dominion of the whole earth, kings being commanded to acknowledge Him on pain of incurring His ruinous disfavor-something which plainly denoted that a greater than Solomon was in view. From the many things he predicated in Psalm 89 of his seed, it is evident David must have known that in no proper sense could they be applied to his immediate successors on the throne. While in Psalm 110 David himself calls his promised descendant his Lord: "The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand until I make throe enemies thy footstool" (v. 1).
Not only does it appear from the psalms that David’s mind was freely occupied with the covenant promises and that God granted him much light thereon, but we also learn from Scripture that they formed the principal solace and joy in the prospect of his dissolution, for when the world was fast receding from his view, he clung to them as "all his salvation and all his desire." As he contemplated death, the future of his family seriously engaged his thoughts. Sorely had he suffered from and by his children, and few if any appeared to have the fear of God upon them. He was probably exercised as to who should succeed him in the kingdom. Then it was he exclaimed, "Although my house be not so with God; yet he bath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure: for this is all my salvation and all my desire, although he make it not to grow" (2 Sam. 23:5).
"Although my house be not so [i.e., as described in vv. 3, 4] with God, yet . . . although he make it not to grow," that is, it declines and diminishes naturally. Absalom was dead; Adonijah, another of his sons, would be slain (1 Kings 2:24, 25); yet God would preserve him a seed from which Christ would come. The dying king was convinced that nothing could prevail to prevent the fulfillment of the divine promises, that full provision was made for every possible contingency.
From the Psalms we turn now to the Prophets, in which we find a series of divine predictions based upon the promises made to David in 2 Samuel 7. Before turning to some of the more important of these, let it be again pointed out that the new things of Christ’s kingdom were portrayed under the veil of the old, that when the Holy Spirit made mention of gospel times they necessarily partook of a Jewish coloring. In other words, existing things and institutions were employed to represent other things of a higher order and nobler nature, so that the fulfillment of those ancient predictions are to be looked for in the spirit and not in the letter, in substance and not in regards to actual form. Only as this clearly established principle is held fast shall we be delivered from the carnalizing of the Jews of old, and the gross literalizing of dispensationalists of today.
Many pages might be written in amplification of what has just been said and in supplying proof that it is "a clearly established principle." The person, the office, and the work of Christ, as well as the blessings which He purchased and procured for His people, were very largely foretold in the language of Judaism. But the fact that the antitype is spoken of in the terms of the type should not cause us to confuse the one with the other. The Old Testament is to be interpreted in the light of the New-not only its types, but its prophecies also. When we read that "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us" (1 Cor. 5:7) we understand what is meant thereby. When we are told that Christians are the seed and children of Abraham (Gal. 3 and 4) we perceive the fulfillment of God’s promise to the patriarch that he should have a numerous seed. In the light of the Epistles we have no difficulty in recognizing that a spiritual cleansing was denoted by "then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean" (Ezek. 36:25).
Take again the wondrous events of the day of Pentecost. Peter explained them by declaring, "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams" (Acts 2:16). The apostle did not mean that Joel’s prophecy had received an exhaustive accomplishment in the phenomena of that particular day, for they were, in measure, repeated in both Acts 8 and 10; nevertheless, there was an actual fulfillment in the larger spiritual endowments then granted the Twelve. But let it be carefully noted it was not a literal fulfillment. The freer communications of the Spirit were foretold under the peculiar form of visions and dreams, because such was the mode when Joel lived in which the more especial gifts of the Spirit were manifested. The promised gift of the Spirit was conferred, yet with a new mode of operation far higher than that of which the Old Testament prophet was cognizant.
Let what has been said above be carefully borne in mind in connection with all that follows. "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 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 for ever." (Isa.. 9:6, 7). The relation between this illustrious passage and its context shows that the scope of the Holy Spirit in the whole was to intimate the character of Christ’s kingdom. In the previous chapter the prophet had spoken of dark and dismal days of trouble and distress, and then he comforted and encouraged the hearts of true believers by announcing the good and grand things which the Messiah would provide. Three New Testament blessings are spoken of in Old Testament terms.
The first was that great light should spring up in a lost world: "The people that walk in darkness without a written revelation from God have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined" (v. 2). We are not left in any doubt as to the meaning of this, for the Holy Spirit has explained it at the beginning of the New Testament. In Matthew 4 we read that the Lord Jesus came and dwelt in Capernaum "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah," quoting this very verse. The following facts were thereby unequivocally established: that the prophecy of Isaiah 9 referred to no far distant "millennium," but to this Christian dispensation; that its accomplishment lies not in some remote era, but in the present; that it concerned not Jews as such, but "the Gentiles"; that the blessing foretold was not a carnal or material one, but a spiritual.
The second blessing here announced was an enlargement, and rejoicing in the Lord: "Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil" (v. 3). The "nation" is that "holy nation" of 1 Peter 2:9-compare Matthew 21:43. By means of the promulgation of the gospel light (spoken of in the previous verse), the holy nation of the New Testament church would be multiplied, as the Book of Acts records. Those who are supernaturally enlightened by the Spirit become partakers of a spiritual joy, so that they "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." The clause "not increased the joy" signifies it is not a carnal happiness which is in view (such as the Jews dreamed of), but "they joy before thee." Their lot in this world is "as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing" (2 Cor. 6:10).
The third blessing is spiritual liberty and freedom: "For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire" (vv. 4, 5). As Gideon was an instrument in the hand of God for breaking the heavy yoke of oppression that Midian had placed on the neck of Israel, so Christ, upon His coming, would deliver poor sinners from the hands of all their enemies-sin, Satan, the world, and the curse of a broken law, unto which they were in bondage (cf. Luke 1:74, 75; 4:18).
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given." The opening "For" shows the definite connection with the context, and announces who it is that would secure those grand blessings for His people. "For unto us a child is born" refers not to the fleshly descendants of Abraham, but to the entire election of grace. The "government" upon His shoulder is no mere rule over Palestine, but is over the entire universe; for all power is given unto Christ in heaven and in earth (Matt. 28:18). Nor is His a temporary reign for a thousand years only, but "even forever" (v. 7). That which the throne and kingdom of the natural David dimly foreshadowed is now being cumulatively, and shall be increasingly, accomplished by the spiritual David on an infinitely higher plane and in a far grander way.
"And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek, and his rest shall be glorious" (Isa.. 11:10). The theme of this blessed chapter is the ministry of the Lord Jesus, and the infinitely and eternally glorious and delightful effects thereof. Its details are to be understood in accord with its main drift, so that its metaphors and similes are to be taken in their proper and figurative sense. To take them literally would be like taking the Levitical priesthood for the priesthood of Christ, whereas the former was only intended to represent the latter. It would be like taking the earthly Canaan for that inheritance which is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. As its contents have been so grievously corrupted, we offer a few remarks thereon.
"And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots" (v. 1). Thus the opening words of the chapter indicate clearly enough that its language is not to be taken literally. The rod is the symbol of the rule and governing power of Christ, as in "The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies" (Ps. 110:2). "And a Branch shall grow out of his roots" signifies Christ’s fruitfulness (cf. John 15:2), which fruitfulness is the result of the Spirit’s being given to Him without measure (vv. 2, 3). Next follows in verses 4, 5 a description of Christ’s ministry and the principles which regulated it-righteousness, equity, and faithfulness. Then we have a figurative description of the effects of His ministry in the conversion of sinners. They to whom the ministry of Christ is sent-that is, those to whom the gospel comes in its saving power-are here likened to the beasts of the field.
We are so distorted and degraded by the Fall that we are fitly compared to wild beasts and creeping things (vv. 6-8). Yet these were to undergo such a transformation that God declares, "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain" (v. 9). The whole of this is to be understood spiritually. A mountain is a local elevation of the land, and to be on a mountain is to be raised and exalted. So conversion brings us to a state of elevation before God, conducting us from our low and depraved state by nature and elevating us into the holiness we have in Christ. Observe that this mountain is called "my holy mountain," being the same as that described in "the Lord bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness" (Jer. 31:231: called the "habitation of justice" because the Mediator is there, a "mountain of holiness" because He has made an end of all our sins.
But let it not be supposed that believers only reach this "holy mountain" when they arrive at heaven. No, they are brought there experimentally in this life, or they will never reach heaven in the next; for it is written "Ye are come unto mount Zion" (Heb. 12:22). And who is it that are come thither? Those who by nature are likened by the prophet to wolves and lambs, leopards and kids. In Acts 10 they are likened to "all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air" (v. 12), which makes it unmistakably clear that the language used by Isaiah is to be understood spiritually and not literally, as the dispensationalists vainly dream. Let us use the terms of Peter’s vision to interpret the figures of Isaiah 11, noting the fourfold classification.
The "fourfooted beasts of the earth," that is, sheep and oxen, are distinguished from the "wild beasts." There is a difference between men, not in nature but in outward conduct-the consequence of disposition, civilization, or religious upbringing: some being more refined, moral, and conscientious than others. "That our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets" (Ps. 144:13) refers to this first class; and was it not actually the case in the time of the apostles when thousands were converted (Acts 4:4). A solemn portrayal of the "wild beasts" is found in Psalm 22, where the suffering Savior exclaims, "Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and roaring lion" (vv. 12, 13). Was not Saul of Tarsus one of these wild bulls and ravening lions (see Acts 9:1; 22:4); and yet grace tamed him.
In Micah 7 we have a beautiful description of the third class, or "creeping things." "The nations [Gentiles] shall see and be confounded at all their might" (v. 16). Yes, when grace works it humbles, so that we are ashamed at what we once boasted of as our righteousness, and confounded at our former self-sufficiency. "They shall lay their hand upon their mouth," having no longer anything to say in self-vindication. "Their ears shall be deaf" to anything Satan says against the gospel. "They shall lick the dust like a serpent," humbling themselves beneath the mighty hand of God. "They shall move out of their holes like worms of the earth"-margin, like "creeping things"! Yes, the gospel unearths us, making us to set our affection on things above. "They shall be afraid of the Lord our God, and shall fear because of thee"-when His holy law is applied to their hearts. And what is the effect produced? Hear their blessed testimony: "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage" (Micah 7:18).
And what of the fourth class, the "fowls of the air"? Do we not see them beautifully portrayed in Ezekiel 17? The "cedar" was the tribe of Judah, and "the highest branch of it" (v. 2) was the royal house of David. The "tender branch" in verse 22 is Christ (cf. Isa. 53:2), of whom it was promised, "In the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it: and it shall bring forth boughs and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar; and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing; in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell" (v. 23). But let us now notice, though it must be very briefly, the blessed transformation which is wrought when these creatures, so intractable by nature, are converted unto God.
"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them" (Isa.. 11:6). How wondrous the grace which brings the wolfish rebel into the mildness and meekness of the lamb! How mighty the power that changes the ferocity of the lion so that a child may lead it! Their enmity against God and His truth is subdued, and they are brought down to the feet of Christ. The more they grow in grace, the lower estimation they have of themselves. "And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox" (v. 7). The lion passes from the carnivorous to the graminivorous: take that literally and it amounts to little, understand it spiritually and it signifies a great deal-when born again we can no longer find satisfaction in creature things, but long for heavenly food. "And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den" (v. 8); this is victory over the enemy (cf. Ps. 91:13, 14; Luke 10:19).
"They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain" (v. 9). Here is the perfect safety of the Lord’s people. Comparing again Psalm 144, the 13th verse of which we quoted above, what immediately follows? This, "that our oxen may be strong to labor: that there be no breaking in, nor going out" (v. 14). They are absolutely safe in this mystic fold: none of Christ’s sheep shall perish. And what is it that ensures their safety in God’s holy mountain? This, "for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (v. 9) —not the material globe, but the spiritual "earth," the church. "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord" (Isa.. 54:13). It is the new covenant "earth" or family: "For all shall know me, from the least to the greatest" (Heb. 8:11). "And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious" (v. 10). And thus we have completed the circle-it is the antitypical David whose banner waves over the whole election of grace.
"And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David" (Isa.. 55:3). "As we had much of Christ in the 53rd chapter and much of the Church of Christ in the 54th, so in this chapter we have much of the covenant of grace made with us in Christ" (Matthew Henry). The chapter opens with a gracious invitation, for those who felt their need of them, to partake of spiritual blessings. The prophet seems to personate the apostles as they went forth in the name of the Lord calling His elect unto the marriage supper. Then he expostulates with those who were laboring for that which satisfied not, bidding them hearken unto God, and assuring them that He would then place Himself under covenant bonds and bestow upon them rich blessings.
The "sure mercies of David" were the things promised to the antitypical David in Psalm 89:28, 29, and so forth. That it is not the typical David or son of Jesse who is here intended is clear from various considerations. First, the natural David had died centuries before. Second, this David whose mercies are sure was yet to come when the prophet wrote, as is plain from verses 4, 5. Third, none but the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, answers to what is here predicated. Finally, all room for uncertainty is completely removed by the apostle’s quotation of these very words in "And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David" (Acts 13:34). Thus "the sure mercies" of the true David signified God would raise Him from the dead unto everlasting life.
These "sure mercies" are extended by Isaiah unto all the faithful as the blessings of the covenant, and therefore may be understood to denote all saving benefits bestowed on believers in this life or that to come. This need occasion no difficulty whatever. Those "mercies" were Christ’s by the Father’s promise and by His own purchase, and at His resurrection they became His in actual possession, being all laid up in Him (2 Cor. 1:20); and from Him we receive them (John 1:16; 16:14-16). The promises descend through Christ to those who believe, and thus are "sure" to all the seed (Rom. 4:16). It was the covenant which provided a firm foundation of mercy unto the Redeemer’s family, and none of its blessings can be recalled (Rom. 11:32).
Those "sure mercies" God swore to bestow upon the spiritual seed or family of David (2 Sam. 7:15, 16; Ps. 89:2, 29, 30), and they were made good in the appearing of Christ and the establishing of His kingdom on His resurrection, as Acts 13:34 so clearly shows, for His coming forth from the grave was the necessary step unto His assumption of sovereign power. God not only said, "Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people," but also a "leader and commander to the people" (v. 4). As the "witness" Christ is seen in Revelation 1:5 and 3:14, and again in John 18 where He declared to Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world, else would my servants fight" (v. 36). It is not based on the use of arms as was David’s, but on the force of truth (see v. 37).
Christ became "commander" at His resurrection (Matthew 28:19); as the apostles expressly announced, "Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour" (Acts 5:31). It is the wielding of His royal scepter which guarantees unto His people the good of all the promises God made unto Him— "the sure mercies of David." "Behold, thou [it is God speaking to the antitypical David, designated in verse 4 "witness" and "commander"] shalt [showing this was yet future in Isaiah’s time] call a nation whom thou knowest not," which is referred to in "The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (Matthew 21:43)-the "holy nation" of 1 Peter 2:9. "And nations that know not thee shall run unto thee" (v. 5), which manifestly has reference to the present calling of the Gentiles.
"I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David: he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd" (Ezek. 34:23). This is Jewish language with a Christian meaning. The reference here, as also in Psalm 89:3, Jeremiah 30:9, and Hosea 3:5, is to the antitypical David. "David is in the prophets often put for Christ in whom all the promises made unto David are fulfilled" (Lowth). A threefold reason may be suggested why Christ is thus called David. First, because He is the man after God’s own heart-His "Beloved" which is what "David" signifies. Second, because David, particularly in his kingship, so manifestly foreshadowed Him. Third, because Christ is the root and offspring of David, the one in whom David’s horn and throne is perpetuated forever.
"The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham" (Matthew 1:1). These words are to be understood not only as an introduction to the Gospel of Matthew, but rather as the divine summary of the whole of the New Testament. The Redeemer is here presented in His official and sacrificial characters: the true Solomon, the true Isaac. Inasmuch as the beloved Son of God willingly submitted to the altar, and being now risen from the dead, He is seated upon the throne. It was to Him as the Son of David that the poor Canaanitish woman appealed. Dispensationalists tell us she was not answered at first because she, being a Gentile, had no claim upon Him in that character-as though our compassionate Lord would be (as another has expressed it) "a stickler for ceremonial, for court etiquette!" The fact is that she evidenced a faith in the grace associated with that title which was sadly lacking in the Jews, for one of the things specially connected with Solomon was his grace to the Gentiles.
"Behold, thou shah conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shah call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:31-33). First, let it be duly noted that this is recorded by Luke, the essentially Gentile Gospel. Second, herein it was expressly announced that Christ should reign "forever," and not merely for a thousand years; and that of His kingdom "there should be no end," instead of terminating at the close of "the millennium." Third, the prophecy of verse 32 has already been fulfilled, and that of verse 33 is now in course of fulfillment. Christ is already upon the throne of David and is now reigning over the spiritual house of Jacob. Clear proof of this is furnished in Acts 2, to which we now turn.
The argument used by Peter in his Pentecostal sermon is easily followed, and its conclusions are decisive. The central purpose of that sermon was to furnish proof that Jesus of Nazareth, whom the Jews had wickedly crucified, was the promised Messiah and Savior. We cannot now analyze the whole of Peter’s inspired address, but confine ourselves to that portion which is pertinent to our present subject. In verse 24 declaration is made that God had loosed Jesus from the pains of death. Then follows a quotation from Psalm 16. Upon that quotation the apostle made some comments. First, David was not there referring to himself (v. 29). Second, it was a Messianic prediction, for God having made known that his seed should sit upon his throne, David wrote his psalms accordingly (i.e., with an eye to the Messiah); and therefore Psalm 16 must be understood as referring to Christ Himself (vv. 30, 31); the apostles themselves being eyewitnesses of the fact that God had raised up Christ (v. 32).
In Acts 2:33-36 the apostle made application of his discourse. First, he showed that what he had just set forth explained the wondrous effusion of the Holy Spirit in the extraordinary gifts He had bestowed upon the Twelve. In verse 12 the people had asked "What meaneth this?"-the apostles speaking in tongues. Peter answers that this Jesus having been exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on high, and having received the promised Spirit from the Father, had now "shed forth" that which they both saw and heard (v. 33). Second, this was self-evident, for David had not ascended into heaven, but his Son and Lord had, as he himself foretold in Psalm 110:1 (vv. 34, 35). Third, therefore this proved what we are all bound to believe, namely, that Jesus of Nazareth is the true Messiah and Savior of sinners, for God bath made Him "both Lord and Christ" (v. 36).
It is with verse 30 of Acts 2 we are here more especially concerned: that God swore to David that Christ should sit on his throne. Let us consider the negative side first: there is not a hint or a word in Peter’s comments that Christ would ascend David’s throne in the future, and when in verse 34 he quoted Psalm 110:1 in fulfillment of Christ’s ascension-"The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand" he did not add "until thou assume the throne of David," but "until I make thy foes thy footstool"! Coming now to the positive side, we have seen that the scope of the apostle’s argument was to show that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah, and that He was risen from the dead, had ascended to heaven, and we now add, was seated upon David’s throne.
That which clinches the last-made statement is the "therefore" of verse 36. The apostle there draws a conclusion, and unless his logic was faulty (which it would be blasphemy to affirm), then it must cohere with his premise, namely, Christ’s present possession of the throne of David in fulfillment of the oath God had sworn to the patriarch. For the purpose of clarity we paraphrase: the premise was that Christ should sit on David’s throne (v. 30): the conclusion is that God bath made Jesus "both Lord and Christ" (v. 36). None but those whose eyes are closed by prejudice can fail to see that in such a connection, being "made Lord and Christ" can mean nothing else than that He is now seated on David’s throne. Peter’s hearers could come to no other possible conclusion than that God’s promise to the patriarch, re the occupancy of his throne, had now received its fulfillment.
Nor does the above passage stand alone. If the reader will carefully consult Acts 4:26, 27 it will be found that the apostles were addressing God, and that they quoted the opening verses of Psalm 2, which spoke of those who were in governmental authority combining together against Jehovah and His Christ, which the apostles (by inspiration) applied to what had recently been done to the Redeemer (v. 27). They referred to the Savior thus: "For of a truth against thy holy child [or "servant"] Jesus, whom thou hast anointed" (v. 27). Now in such a connection the mention of Jesus as the one whom God had anointed could only mean what is more fully expressed in Psalm 2, "my anointed king"-"yet have I anointed [see margin my king upon my holy hill of Zion" (Ps. 2:6). Otherwise the application of Psalm 2 to the crucifixion had been fitted only to mislead.
"In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen" (Amos 9:11). This is another old covenant promise possessing a new covenant significance, as will appear by the inspired interpretation of it in Acts 15. Let us first notice its time-mark: "in that day." The immediate context explains this: it was to be the day when "the sinful kingdom" of Israel would be destroyed by God "from off the face of the earth" (v. 8, saving that He would not utterly destroy the house of Jacob-the godly remnant), when He would "sift the house of Israel among all nations" (v. 9), when "all the sinners of his people should die by the sword" (v. 10). What follows in verses 11, 12 predicted the establishment of Messiah’s kingdom. Second, let us now observe its citation in Acts 15.
In verses 7-11 Peter spoke of the grace of God having been extended to the Gentiles, and in verse 12 Paul and Barnabas bore witness to the same fact. Then in verses 13:21 James confirmed what they said by a reference to the Old Testament. "And to this [i.e., the saving of a people from the Gentiles and adding them to the saved of Israel: see vs. 8, 9, 11] agree the word of the prophets" (Acts 15:14). Yes, for the promised kingdom of the Messiah, in the Old Testament, was not placed in opposition to the theocracy, but as a continuation and enlargement of it. See 2 Samuel 7:12 and Isaiah 9:6, where it was said that the Prince of peace should sit on David’s throne and prolong His kingdom forever; while in Genesis 49:10 it was announced that the Redeemer should spring from Judah and be the enlarger of his dominion.
Then James quoted Amos: "After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called" (Acts 17). The "tabernacle of David" was but another name for God’s earthly kingdom (note how in 1 Kings 2:12 we read, "Then sat Solomon upon the throne of David his father," while in 1 Chronicles 29:23 it is said, "Then Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord"), for during the last thousand years of Old Testament history His kingdom on earth was inseparably identified with David’s throne. But now the shadow has been displaced by the substance, and it is the "tabernacle" of the antitypical David. The church militant is aptly designated a "tabernacle" in allusion to the tabernacle in the wilderness, for it is (as that was) God’s habitation, the place where the divine testimony is preserved, and where He is worshipped.
The setting up of the kingdom of Christ was designated a raising of the fallen tabernacle of David, first, because Christ Himself was the Seed of David, the one through whom the promises of 2 Samuel 7 were to be made good. Second, because He is the antitypical and true David: as the natural David restored the theocracy by delivering it from its enemies (the Philistines, etc.) and established it on a firm and successful basis, so Christ delivers the kingdom of God from its enemies and establishes it on a sure and abiding foundation. Third, because Christ’s kingdom and church is the continuance and consummation of the Old Testament theocracy-New Testament saints are added to the Old (Eph. 2:11-15; 3:6; Heb. 11:40). Thus the prophecy of Amos received its fulfillment, first, in the raising up of Christ (at His incarnation) out of the ruins of Judah’s royal house; second, when (at His ascension) God gave unto Christ the antitypical throne of David-the mediatorial throne; third, when (under the preaching of the gospel) the kingdom of Christ was greatly enlarged by the calling of the Gentiles. Thus Acts 15:14-17 furnished us with a sure key to the interpretation of Old Testament prophecy, showing us it is to be understood in its spiritual and mystical sense.
"And again Isaiah saith, There shall be the Root of Jesse, and he that ariseth [Greek in the present tense] to rule [reign] over the Gentiles: on him shall the Gentiles hope" (Rom. 15:12, RV). This was quoted here by the apostle for the express purpose of demonstrating that the true David was the Savior of and King over the Gentiles. If the Davidic reign or kingdom of Christ were yet future, this quotation would be quite irrelevant and no proof at all. In verse 7 the apostle had exhorted unto unity between the Hebrew and Gentile saints at Rome. In verse 8 and 9 he declared that Christ became incarnate in order to unite both believing Jews and Gentiles into one body. Then in verses 9-12 he quotes four Old Testament passages in proof multiplying texts because this was a point on which the Jews were so prejudiced.
"These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth" (Rev. 3:7). This need not detain us long, for the meaning of these words is obvious. In Scripture the key is the well-known symbol of authority, and the key of David signifies that Christ is vested with royal dignity and power. To one of those who foreshadowed Christ, God said, "I will commit thy government into his hand, and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open" (Isa.. 22:21, 22). Note well, dear reader, that Revelation 3:7 was spoken by Christ to a Christian church, and not to the Jews! The use of the present tense utterly repudiates the ideas of those who insist that Christ’s entering upon His Davidic or royal rights is yet future.
"Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book" (Rev. 5:5). We cannot now enter into a detailed examination of the blessed scene presented in Revelation 5, but must content ourselves with the briefest possible summary. First, we take it that the sealed book is the title deeds to the earth, lost by the first Adam (cf. Jer. 36:6-15). Second, Christ as the Lion of Judah "prevailed" to open it: He secured the right to do so by His conquering of sin, Satan, and death. Third, it is as the "Lamb" He takes the book (vv. 6, 7), for as such He redeemed the purchased possession. Fourth, He is here seen "in the midst of the throne," showing He is now endowed with royal authority. There is no hint in the chapter that its contents respect the future, and therefore we regard the vision as a portrayal of God’s placing His King upon the hill (mountain) of His holiness, and giving to Him the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession. Christ’s throne is a heavenly and spiritual one: "Even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 5:21).