God’s Promise to David (1)
We here turn from David the warrior to David the poet. However, note well that in the following passage, in which God’s purposes for David and his house are made clear, it is God’s support of David the warrior that has opened the opportunity for David the poet to prosper.
2 Samuel 7:1-11a
After terrible struggle, terrors and heartache, David is now the King.
After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2 he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”
3 Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”
King David feels a sense of guilt because his home is far more impressive than that provided for the ark of God. Nathan’s reply is based on a general principle which appears to be certainly established by events.
4 But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying:
5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. 7 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’
The Lord God corrects Nathan’s error. Note that His point is that David’s intention is based upon his own thoughts rather than on God’s Word to him.
8 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you.
God is not here speaking in ephemeral metaphors. The “cutting off” of David’s enemies including King Saul, opposing Israelites and foreign foes has occurred by bloody, deadly conflict. David and his followers dealt out death and destruction by their own hands. At some points God intervened to cause death.
Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.
Far from finding fault in David, God begins to explain His purposes for David’s life and reign. God intends to make David’s name “great, like the names of the greatest men on earth.” That is, David and his reign as king over Israel will be known far into the future as a sign and symbol of God’s purposes through the Israelis.
Through the decisive victories in open warfare here on this fallen earth, God has created the space for Israel and its king to be planted with deep roots of religious, and cultural tradition. For a time they will be free from oppression by the external forces of wickedness.
This is a precious gift. In these ancient times peoples generally lived deep in the shadow of imminent death and destruction. Thus, their time and energy was almost completely consumed by the requirements for physical survival. Here God is allowing the nation of Israel rest from those terrible challenges. Thus, space has been made for King David the poet to, by the Spirit’s leading, to create the Psalms that will guide and encourage God’s people throughout all succeeding history.