After Moses died, the Lord chose Joshua to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. Yet, even after witnessing God’s clear fulfillment of His promise to Abraham, the people continued to live in rampant disobedience to His instruction in the Mosaic covenant. Rather than trusting and obeying God, the Israelites lived according to what seemed right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25). Just as Adam and Eve had done in the garden (Gen. 3:6), they chose what seemed good to them over what God had commanded, and it let them to a place of destitution and despair.
Eventually, the Israelites decided they wanted a king to lead them, specifically a king like those ruling over the nations around them. They weren’t looking for a man who would rule under submission to God, but one who would ultimately replace Him (1 Sam. 8). The Lord gave the people what they asked for in the form of a man named Saul.
Saul was Israel’s failed attempt at self-rule based on human power and strength. Like the kings of the nations, he disobeyed God and ruled according to his own judgment. Consequently, God removed Saul from power and chose David to replace him as king over Israel. God chose an unlikely king, one who did not fit the part according to stature or status, but one who God called “a man after his own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). God did not want a king who would rule according to human wisdom, but according to His law and for the good of His people.
The Covenant Made
Once David was firmly established as king, he decided that it was not right that he should live in a palace made of cedar while God Himself dwelled in a tent. (God’s presence resided in the Ark of the Covenant, which was placed in a tent called a tabernacle.) He wanted to build a more suitable house for the presence of the Lord, so he brought his idea to a prophet named Nathan. That night, the Lord visited Nathan and gave him a response to David’s idea. It was in this response that God established the Davidic Covenant.
God said that He had chosen David. He had brought him out of the fields as a shepherd, protected him from his enemies and led him to this place that he might serve as king of God’s people. God promised to bless David by making his name great and granting him rest from his enemies. He promised to bless Israel through David’s rule by establishing a firm and stable home for His people. Finally, God told Nathan that He did not need David to build a house for Him, but that would instead make a house for David. Not a physical house made of cedar and gold, but an everlasting dynasty. God promised to establish the throne and royal line of David forever.
In the Old Covenant, God had called the Israelites to live as His faithful sons and representatives to the nations. In the Davidic Covenant, God called David to walk in faithful service to the Lord as His son, and to represent His character in the way he lived and governed (Deut. 17:14-20). God established David as king that he might fulfill those roles on Israel's behalf. He was to “accomplish for the nation as a whole what the group of individuals had failed to do” (GKtGC, p. 205). Thus, it was established that the king of Israel would be the mediator of God’s relationship with His people. He would represent God to the world as he lived and ruled according to His righteousness, and he would represent the people to God as he walked in obedience on their behalf.
In God's covenant with Abraham, He promised to both bless Abraham and bless the nations through him. In carrying out those promises, God established the Old (or Mosaic) Covenant with Abraham’s descendants, the Israelites. As God’s covenant people, the Israelites would be blessed as they carried out God’s law, which gave instruction for human flourishing. They would serve as a blessing to the nations as they modeled how to love God and love others well. In the Davidic Covenant, God established David as king over Israel and called him to do those things on Israel’s behalf.
Yet we encounter the same problem with David as with all of the covenant heads before him. He and his offspring failed to live in perfect obedience to God. David was a good king, but he was far from a perfect man (see 2 Samuel 11), and a perfectly holy God required a perfectly obedient covenant partner for the fulfillment of His promises. Yet, one day, a better son of David would come. One who would live as God’s faithful Son without even a hint or trace of sin. One who would serve as the perfect image of the invisible God to the world. One who would act as the ultimate mediator between God and His people, eternally securing His relationship with them. One day, a son of David would come who would reign on the throne forever.
Suggested Reading: 2 Samuel 7, Deuteronomy 17:14-20, Acts 12:13-40
*The ideas in this blog are a synthesis of Dr. Peter Gentry's and Dr. Stephen Wellum's presentation of the covenants in God's Kingdom through God's Covenant. For deeper study on this topic, I highly recommend this resource.
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