God's Covenant With David
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The story of David, Israel's second king, contains all the elements of an exciting adventure story. In David's 71 years, full of rags-to-riches contrasts, David went from his role as the eighth son of an average family, one stuck with the job of taking care of the family's sheep, to the dominant leader of the nation. Fighting wild animals to keep them from preying on his sheep, running for his life from Saul and leading soldiers into battle provided all the adventure anyone could want.
Yet David had a creative side. He was a poet, musician and composer. We find many of his works in the book of Psalms. In his zeal for God he acquired materials for the building of a temple and standardized Israel's formal structure of worship through its priests and musicians. Yet he had his share of weaknesses—sins, faults and family squabbles.
As exciting as aspects of David's life may sound to us, God was attracted to this man for another reason. After Saul's failure to serve as king in the way God desired, the Bible tells us that God sought "a man after His own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14). God selected David to succeed Saul for this reason. Though David made serious mistakes, in the end he always repented of his sins and looked to God for forgiveness (Psalm 51). Though king of Israel, he took God more seriously than he took himself.
An astounding promise
Because David was a man after God's own heart, a man with a tender conscience toward his Creator, God made a separate and distinct covenant with him in addition to the covenant He had made with Israel. Accordingly, when David wanted to build a house for God, the Almighty sent a message to David through the prophet Nathan:
"When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 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 commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever" (2 Samuel 7:12-16).
Understanding the scope of this promise—that God would establish David's throne forever—is a challenging study. The best understood aspect of this covenant finds fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah—born of Mary, a literal descendant of David—ruling in the Kingdom of God.
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God prophesies of this time: "Behold, the days are coming...that I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Jeremiah 23:5-6).
Before Mary's conception of Jesus, an angel told her: "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David" (Luke 1:31-32).
These passages show that Jesus was destined to sit on the throne of David. Although these events are sure to come to pass, many mistakenly believe it has already been fulfilled in Christ. However, it will not be fulfilled in full until He returns.
Human rulers on the throne of David
Another part of God's promise to David was that his descendants would continue to rule over the people of Israel until God established His Kingdom on earth. Misunderstanding when God will establish the Kingdom has led many to mistakenly assume that this promise was fulfilled long ago in Christ and that it no longer has any meaning.
Contrary to people's concept that the Kingdom of God is already on earth in the form of the church or in the hearts of human beings, the Bible plainly says that God will establish His Kingdom when Christ comes a second time to earth (Daniel 2:44; Revelation 11:15). Although men have preached the message of the Kingdom with varying levels of understanding for thousands of years, the Kingdom's appearance on earth has not yet occurred. When it does, the Kingdom of God will replace the world's human governments (for a more complete explanation of this subject, please request our free booklet The Gospel of the Kingdom).
The religious worship God instituted for ancient Israel—with His seventh-day Sabbath and annual Holy Days—also reveals much about the way the nations will worship Him after God sets up His Kingdom on earth. (To study the continuing forms of worship God has established, please request our free booklets Sunset to Sunset: God's Sabbath Rest and God's Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind.
With the understanding that God has not yet established His Kingdom on earth, let's consider some of the Bible's promises that a descendant of David would continue to rule over Israel's descendants. In 2 Chronicles 13:5 we find that "the LORD God of Israel gave the dominion over Israel to David forever, to him and his sons, by a covenant of salt." Like the preserving properties of salt, a covenant of salt was one that would last. God guaranteed that the "house of David"—his descendants—would continue to exist forever (2 Chronicles 21:7).
Because David's descendants did not continue to obey God, some have mistakenly believed that God was released from His covenant with David. Yet this was not the case. Of David God said: "My mercy I will keep for him forever, and My covenant shall stand firm with him. His seed also I will make to endure forever, and his throne as the days of heaven.
"If his sons forsake My law and do not walk in My judgments, if they break My statutes and do not keep My commandments, then I will punish their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless My lovingkindness I will not utterly take from him, nor allow My faithfulness to fail.
"My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David: His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before Me; it shall be established forever like the moon, even like the faithful witness in the sky" (Psalm 89:28-37; compare with Jeremiah 33:15-21).
Through God's covenant with David we find another biblical proof that Abraham's descendants, the Israelites, continue to exist. They have not died out; they have not disappeared from the face of the earth. Again, God's own credibility is at stake. He tells us in His Word that the descendants of David and the people in his ancient nation will continue to exist.