The Covenant Made with David
The past and the present are the materials out of which God's purposed to evolve a future. From the time of the creation has been His will to proceed by a well-defined plan to work out a state of things which shall reflect His glory. God's works, glory, and majesty of Nature's God are manifested in her every form. True are the words of the Psalmist, recorded in the 19th Psalm: "The heavens declare the glory of God." As to the future of the world, as to man's nature and destiny, the things around us are silent. There is only one source of information on this most important of all enquiries: "To what do all things tend?" The Bible alone can tell us what God has done, what He is doing, and what He intends to accomplish. It is the only revelation ever made to man concerning the will of Him whose thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and whose ways are higher than our ways. In it God declares Himself to be the Creator and Sustainer of everything, and the only source from which knowledge may be obtained concerning His purpose. Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, He says in the 45th chapter, at the 11th verse: "Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons, and concerning the work of My hands command ye Me."
In the 7th chapter of the 2nd Book of Samuel, the terms of the Davidic covenant are stated. When David had rest from his enemies, he purposed to build a house for the ark of God to dwell in, seeing that from the time of its construction by Moses, it had been within the curtains of the tabernacle. But David being a man of war, the prophet Nathan was sent by God to dissuade him from this purpose, and to give him a promise from the Lord in the following terms: "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 an 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, (better rendered - in suffering for 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 away 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." Here is the text of God's covenant with David. Summed up in a few words it is that he should have a son, who should reign after him, and whose kingdom should be everlasting, and under God's care. Thus Nathan delivered the message to David; and; in the 89th Psalm at verse 3, it is declared: "I (God) have made I 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"; and in the 28th and 34th verses, "My covenant shall stand fast with him. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of My lips. Once have I sworn by My holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before Me."
This covenant made with David is no cunningly devised fable. It is an item of divine truth, or David would not have exclaimed among his last words: "He (God) hath 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.) The last clause of that sentence, "although he make it not to grow," expresses David's conviction that the promise was not fulfilled at the time of his death. Why did he speak thus? Because he perceived on receiving the promise that the Lord had spoken of his house for a great while to come. The question to be decided is, "Is that great while passed; or has the set time for the fulfilment of the promise not yet come?" We believe that it has not yet come.
But some would ask: "Did not David have a son, Solomon, who reigned after him; who built a house for the Lord; and who was chastened with the rod of men for his iniquity? True, he did. But we would not think that all David's hope and salvation were brought to pass in the reign of Solomon over Israel for forty years. No! If Peter the apostle were here now, he would repeat the words he uttered to those assembled at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost more than eighteen centuries ago:
"Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and that his sepulchre is with us unto this day. 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; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, neither did His flesh see corruption" (Acts 2:29-31).
Peter here refers the promise to Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ or Anointed of God; and when it is remembered that Peter spoke by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we shall not feel inclined to dispute his testimony. Paul, another inspired apostle, more particularly connected with us since he was the apostle specially commissioned to deliver God's message to the Gentiles, said as recorded in the 22nd verse of the 13th chapter of Acts, that when God "had removed him (Saul) He raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also He gave testimony, and said, I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after Mine own heart, which shall fulfil all My will. Of this man's seed hath God, according to His promise, raised unto Israel a Savior, Jesus."
As to the sonship of Christ, the covenant requires that He shall be both Son of David as at verse 12, and Son of God, at verse 14. Now Solomon was the son of David, being born unto him by Bathsheba. Jesus was also the Son of David, for in the 1st chapter of Matthew, and the 3rd chapter of Luke, the genealogy of Jesus is traced from Abraham through David and Mary, the mother of Jesus. Was he the Son of God also? Yes, in a higher sense than Solomon was. Solomon was the son of David and his wife Bathsheba; but in the 1st chapters of both Luke's gospel and Matthew's, it is said of the circumstances of the birth of Jesus, that His mother was Mary, and His Father, God. At the intimation of the angel to Mary that she should have a Son - the Child of Promise - she expressed her astonishment, and was answered by the angel in the words which Luke has recorded: "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35) This is a more direct sonship of God than was Solomon's; for therefore, said the angel, because the Holy Spirit shall overshadow thee, shall thy Child be called the Son of God. Further confirmation may be found in the 3rd chapter of Matthew, when at the baptism of Jesus the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove, and a voice was heard proclaiming to those around: "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear ye Him." Jesus was Son of God, and Son of David; and David by the spirit of prophecy was enabled to foresee the superior nature of his promised Seed, and to call Him Lord.
Another feature of the covenant was that in suffering for iniquity the Seed should be chastened with the rod of men and with the stripes of the children of men. Although in the ordinary version of the Scriptures the text is, "if he commit iniquity," yet on scholarly authority we are informed that the original is justly represented by the phrase, "even in his suffering for iniquity." Did Christ suffer for iniquity? Truly, he did. It is only needful to look at that beautiful yet pathetic chapter, the 53rd of Isaiah, to see this:
"He is despised and rejected of men; a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; He was despised and we esteemed Him not. Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God; and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment; and who shall declare His generation? for He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of my people was He stricken."
This is a description by the prophet of Christ's sufferings. No man ever suffered more for iniquity than He did, yet the iniquity was not His own; as Paul says in the 13th chapter of Acts: "Though they found no cause of death in Him, yet desired they Pilate that He should be slain." Jesus was Son of God, and Son of David, and in suffering for iniquity, though not His own, He was chastened with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men. These portions of the covenant have been fulfilled, but there are others which can have no reference to past history, and seeing that God has sworn, and will not lie unto David, they must yet be fulfilled.
Christ is to be a King. His kingdom is to be an everlasting kingdom, and it has not yet been established; or, if it has, where is it today? Sin and misery abound on every hand. Vice is monarch, and virtue is scarcely known. Vice in many forms is reigning, but chiefly in that spirit of self-aggrandizement by which the poor are forced to spend a short life of toil and labor for the benefit of their austere taskmasters, who look with unpitying eye upon their workmen's sufferings, and are themselves living in ease and amid plenty, and storing up wealth for the further encouragement of their posterity to follow in their footsteps. The poor are therefore driven to seek what pleasure they can in ways which would give no pleasure if their lives were otherwise. Men on every hand are seeking how they may best outdo their fellowmen. Nation is striving with nation over the possession for a few short years of that territory which is not theirs, but God's. This surely cannot be a perpetuation of a kingdom of Christ. Christ cannot at present be fulfilling that part of the covenant which speaks of His kingship, or it is a sorry realization of the many utterances of Israel's prophets concerning the glory of Christ's kingdom. We hope for greater things than these. We look for a time when virtue shall reign supreme, and vice shall be trodden underfoot; when Christ's kingdom shall be established forever, and God's mercy shall rest upon it.
To see how this is to be brought about it will be necessary to look back upon the history of Israel, and on the days since Christ was on earth. This kingdom is to be the realization of the hopes of all the saints of old. The promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had reference to the same time. The promise made in Eden that the seed of Eve should bruise the head of the serpent's seed after being bruised by it in the heel, had reference also to this day of Christ's supremacy. The mainstay of the prophets and the truth of the whole Scriptures is this glorious order of government; and surely it is not existing now.
God did once have a kingdom. The people of Israel after being brought out of Egypt by His almight arm, and having received the Law through Moses at Sinai were taken to the land of Canaan, and in time were established there as a kingdom, first with no king but their God, afterward with a visible king, Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin. He proved himself unworth of the position, and in his place David, a man after God's own heart, was chosen as their King. David was of the tribe of Judah. He was the son of Jesse. He did those things which were righteous in the eyes of the Lord, and was favored by the Lord on that account. So well pleasing was his character to God that the covenant we are considering was made with him. It could not have been made with Saul, for he was not of the tribe of God's choice. Judah was the chosen tribe and David belonged to it. David died and was laid to rest in the dust of the earth to await, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and many others, the development of God's plan. As before observed, he perceived that God had spoken of his house for a great while to come. Solomon his son reigned in his stead, and during the next forty years the nation of Israel attained the zenith of its glory; but after Solomon fell asleep the kingdom was divided between his son Rehoboam, and Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
Two separate kingdoms existed for about four hundred years, and during that time the Israelites fell to the worship of golden calves at the institution of Jeroboam. The sin of the people increased, and though here and there throughout the four centuries there appeared a king whose will was in accord with the commands the Lord yet on the whole the nations grew worse till Israel was carried captive to Assyria by Shalmaneser, and Judah to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. Then followed seventy years of dire calamity to the people, seventy years in which they wept bitterly for that which had come upon them. God had often sent to them, as He figuratively expresses it, rising early and sending messengers to invite them to return to Him, but they would not. Therefore for the multitude of their transgressions they were given over to the hand of their enemies till such time as it should please the Lord to restore them to His favor. Speaking through His prophet Ezekiel to the last king of Judah, He said:
"And thou, profane wicked prince, whose end is come, when iniquity shall have an end, thus saith the Lord God, Remove the diadem and take off the crown; this shall not be the same; Exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn it, and it shall be no more, till He come whose right it is, and I will give it Him" (Ezek. 21:25-29).
These declarations need very little studying to find out what their meaning is. It is that the kingdom should not again exist till He should come whose right it is, and who is worthy to hold the position of Overseer of God's heritage.
This plainly indicates that there will be an end of the overturning; the word "till" must point to a time of alteration. But in addition to this intimation, other testimonies abound. Even Jeremiah the prophet commissioned to bear the most doleful tidings to the people, also bore them tidings that they should be restored from their outcasting.
As Jeremiah had told them, they remained seventy years in Babylon, and at the end of that time a comma