Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Davidic Expectations

In the seventh chapter of second Samuel, David begins to contemplate the building of a temple to God.  While David is talking about building a house for God, God begins talking building a house for David.  This talk of David’s house begins with God speaking to the prophet Nathan, instructing him to speak to David and say, “I took you from the pasture and from your work as a shepherd to make you leader of My people Israel” (2 Samuel 7:8b).  This is an allusion to David’s Moses-like story, in that this was essentially Moses’ experience as well.  In the same vein, with a hearkening to the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that attended Israel in the wilderness of Moses’ leadership, God goes on to say through Nathan, “I was with you wherever you went, and I defeated all your enemies before you” (7:9a).  To this is added, “Now I will make you as famous as the great men of the earth” (7:9b), which can undoubtedly be said of David. 

Following this, the Lord turns his attention ever so slightly to Israel, saying “I will establish a place for My people Israel and settle them there; they will live there and not be disturbed any more.  Violent men will not oppress them again, as they did in the beginning and during the time when I appointed judges to lead My people Israel” (7:10-11a).  God informs David that He wants to give His people a permanent exodus---a permanent rescue.  This sounds remarkably like a promise given voice by Jeremiah (indicating a pattern of belief and expectation), when the Lord informs His people that they will ultimately be delivered from exile, so as to dwell in His gift of exodus for all of their days.  In Jeremiah, God says, “’When the time for them to be rescued comes,’ says the Lord Who rules over all, ‘I will rescue you from foreign subjugation.  I will deliver you from captivity.  Foreigners will then no longer subjugate them.  But they will be subject to the Lord their God and to the Davidic ruler whom I will raise up as king over them’.” (Jeremiah 30:8-9) 

This mention of the Davidic ruler seems to connect this passage quite explicitly with what is happening in Second Samuel, as we return there and read the continuation of the Lord’s words to David, which are “The Lord declares to you that He Himself will build a dynastic house for you.  When the time comes for you to die, I will raise up your descendant, one of your own sons, to succeed you, and I will establish his kingdom.  He will build a house for My Name, and I will make his dynasty permanent.  I will become his Father and he will become My son” (7:11b-14a).  With the benefit of hindsight, it is impossible for us to read those words without having our minds transported beyond David’s son Solomon, though he would be raised up at the time of David’s death, to succeed him, and his kingdom was most definitely established, with peace on all sides.  Indeed, he would build a house for the Name of the Lord, as he did build the Temple of God in Jerusalem.  His dynasty however, though it did endure for some time, cannot truly be spoken of as permanent.  So going beyond Solomon, and beyond the kings of Israel and Judah, we search for a person to whom we can apply these words, and in doing so, we eventually land upon the one who would be messiah. 

The messiah (the deliverer to whom all previous deliverers of Israel pointed) was going to be the great king of Israel, the Son of David, whose kingdom would be established forever.  The house that he would build in the Name of the Lord was going to be a glorious house to which all men would look and come for the worship of the God of Israel.  The messiah was expected to have a permanent dynasty, because when he appeared, it was believed that he would be the physical embodiment of Israel’s God, entering into history to set the world right.  It was the messiah that would be the true Son of God---the great king of Israel under whose rule Israel would be safely established and no longer oppressed, and through whose rule God would set Israel above all peoples and all nations. 

Returning to the passage from Jeremiah, in the context of being established, a Davidic ruler, and the permanent dynasty that has been promised to David, we go on to hear God say, “So I, the Lord, tell you not to be afraid, you descendants of Jacob, My servants.  Do not be terrified, people of Israel.  For I will rescue you and your descendants from a faraway land where you are captives.  The descendants of Jacob will return to their land and enjoy peace.  They will be secure and no one will terrify them.  For I, the Lord, affirm that I will be with you and will rescue you” (10-11a).  The promises do not stop there, as there is more to the word of the Lord in the passage from Jeremiah, just as there is more to the words of God through Nathan. 

From Nathan, we go on to hear “When he sins,” in reference to the descendant that will be raised up, “I will correct him with the rod of men and with wounds inflicted by human beings.  But My loyal love will not be removed from him as I removed it from Saul, whom I removed from before you” (7:14b-15).  In Jeremiah, God goes on to say, “I will completely destroy all the nations where I scattered you.  But I will not completely destroy you.  I will indeed discipline you, but only in due measure.  I will not allow you to go entirely unpunished” (30:11b).  The greater context of this promise of the infliction of wounds is the continuation of the Davidic dynasty, which we also find being communicated to David, as God says that, in spite of the wounds that would be inflicted upon David’s descendant by human beings, that “Your house and your kingdom will stand before Me permanently; your dynasty will be permanent” (7:16).  Once this great descendant takes the throne, the rescue provided by the Lord will never come to an end.   

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