The Kingdom of God in the days of Israel, as the very name implies, was a theocracy. It was not known as the kingdom of Palestine, after the style of the kingdom of Great Britain, although in the past it was associated geographically with Palestine, as it will be again in the future. It is distinguished by the fact that it is God's Kingdom, in how many particulars we have seen in a previous chapter.
The Kingdom in the first instance was the kingdom of Israel, although in the future it will include all nations. It was God's Kingdom because God was Israel's king. The judges who ruled were His deputies, and when some four to five hundred years after the Exodus the nation desired a king, their action was regarded as rejecting God as King (1 Sam. 8:7). God, however, hearkened to their wishes, and a king was granted to fulfil their hearts' desire. Saul had many qualities of a leader, but he lacked moral strength, and above all he lacked the faith without which it was impossible for him to be the loyal deputy of God.
Saul's successor, David, was "a man after God's own heart". His prowess in war and his skill in poetry and music alike won him favour with the people. But he had to wait many years, and to pass through many bitter experiences and much hard discipline before he came to the throne.
The progressive character of God's revelation might here be pointed out. As we have seen in chapter four, the promise in Eden was in the form of a simple statement adapted to the elementary conditions then existing. Later, when nations came into being, God revealed that all nations would be blessed in Abraham and his seed, and the development of Abraham's descendants, the nation of Israel, as God's people, was the immediate sequel. Now when the question of rulership in the kingdom of Israel had assumed an important place in their historical development, God made a further revelation concerning the throne of His Kingdom.
The Covenant of the Throne
The immediate occasion of this further revelation was the desire on David's part to build a house for God. To David it seemed inappropriate that he should dwell in a palace, whilst the central objects associated with God's worship were housed in a tent. David's wish was not granted, but he was permitted to gather material for the work to be done by his successor. The occasion, however, was taken by God to reveal that He would build David a house -- that is, God would found a royal line in David, and a promise was made to him which is included in the covenants of promise" that Paul affirms to be the basis of Christian hope.
In the second book of Samuel, chapter 7, we read: "Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime, and as since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel, and have caused thee to rest from all thine enemies. Also the Lord telleth thee that he will make thee an house. 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, 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 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. According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David" (verses 10-17).
It will be observed at once that this promise carries on the reference to a seed -- so that there is the historical sequence: "the seed of the woman" (Gen. 3:15), the seed of Abraham (Gen. 12:7, etc.), and now the seed of David. Since the covenant concerns the throne over Israel, it cannot be fulfilled unless that people is restored and made secure, so as to be no longer the prey of Gentile oppressors: to this, therefore, reference is first made (verse 10).
David's Own Salvation
The covenant specifically states that it will find its fulfillment after the death of David (verse 12), and yet his house and kingdom are to be established "before him" -- that is, in his presence (verse 15). A descendant of David will be "set up" on his throne, and God will establish His kingdom forever. This king is to be a builder of a house for God, while God will establish his throne. A further important point in connection with the seed promised is the information that he will be the Son of God: "I will be his father", said God, "and he shall be my son". It is repeated that the throne and the house of David under these arrangements will be everlasting.
David himself, in his last prophetic utterance, declares the covenant was then unfulfilled and indeed unlikely to be fulfilled in the immediate future "yet 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). David's own salvation, he recognized, was bound up with the fulfillment of the promise. Like other men of faith, he believed in the resurrection from the dead. "As for me", he wrote, "I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness" (Psa. 17:15). Again: "God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me" (Psa. 49:15)
All these matters embodied in the promise to David receive amplification and explanation in later Scriptures. These make it clear that only in a very limited sense is it possible to apply the promise to Solomon, David's son and successor on the throne. Long after Solomon's day, the prophets, as we shall see, referred to the promise as something yet future; but conclusive proof, if further proof were necessary, is found in the New Testament teaching.
The seed promised to David is the Christ -- Israel's Messiah. Peter's identification is explicit: David "being a prophet, knew 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" (Acts 2:30). The Christ thus being the one promised, the words of the angel to Mary before Jesus was born become at once a confirmation of the promise and an identification of the seed. "And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:30-33). When the child, Jesus, was born the angels announced "Fear not for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10, 11). The inspired songs of Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:46-55), and of Zacharias, also show the vital connection of the child with the promises made to the fathers of Israel. Mary's song is a mosaic of references to Messianic prophecies. Zacharias said: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people; and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David: as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began" (Luke 1:68-70).
The son of Mary is the seed; therefore Jesus must occupy David's throne and must yet reign over the restored nation of Israel. The Annunciation to Mary also shows the literal meaning that must be attached to the promise "I will be his father" -- the Christ is God's Son.
The Jewish people have always refused this application of the words of God to David, looking for a man in David's line, of human parentage, as their Messiah. But Jesus confounded the Jews of his day on this very point. After a series of questions had been put to him, he in turn asked his adversaries a question, "What think ye of Christ? Whose son is he? They say unto him, The son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord (God) said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions" (Matt. 22:42-46). On the accepted rules of precedence among the Jews the argument of Jesus was unanswerable: contrary to all practice David in Psalm 110 calls his descendant "My Lord". What gave that descendant such high standing? The only answer, and the one the question of Jesus called for, was that the Messiah must be the Son of God.
The opening of the New Testament sets forth these two facts -- the Messiahship and divine sonship -- and applies both to Jesus. The first verse declares his connection with the men to whom God had made promise of a seed: "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham" (Matt. 1:1). And in the same chapter Joseph, repudiating the paternity of Jesus, is informed "Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it flight be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" (Matt. 1:20-23).
The Gospel and the Throne-Covenant
In the letter to the Romans, Paul declares the gospel of God concerns "His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:3, 4).
In the book of Revelation, by a divine paradox, Jesus is declared to be "the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David" and also "a Lamb as it had been slain" (5:5, 6); and Jesus himself declares: "I am the root and offspring of David, and the bright and morning star" (22:16). The New Testament thus links up the gospel with the throne-covenant made with David. The same connection is seen in other references. For example, in Psalm 2, We have the words: "I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel" (verses 7-9). From the context it is evident that these words will be spoken in the day when Christ, returned to set up his throne, is opposed by "the kings of the earth and the rulers" (verses 1-3). God will then declare that He has set His king upon the holy hill of Zion. That king, the Messiah, will interpose and announce that the decree was made when he, the Son of God, was born, that God would give him the nations for his inheritance. It is the last appeal to the nations to accept his rule before he subdues them by breaking them in pieces.
In Psalm 16:8-11 we read: "I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore". The words are David's, but they could not apply to him, for, as Peter points out, David saw corruption. Peter affirms that David here spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah (Acts 2:31). Isaiah invites men to hear God's words, the assurance being given: "I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David" (55:3).
Observe now Paul's explanation of these statements. He is speaking to Jews, thoroughly familiar with the words, but unable to perceive their application. When once their application is perceived, Paul's reasoning is irrefutable. "Though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. But God raised him from the dead: and he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people. And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption. But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption" (Acts 13:28-37). (In verses 33 and 37, the Revised Version omits the word "again", as both the text and the sense require.)
David then, by the spirit of God, foretold that the Messiah, descended from him, would be God's Son, would die, but would be raised up from death before corruption had assailed his body. Such predictions are so unthinkable that it is difficult to think of any man inventing them. Add to them the further statement in the verse of the 110th Psalm, which was the basis of the argument of Jesus already mentioned, and the series of utter improbabilities is complete. "The Lord said unto my lord", said David, "Sit thou on my right hand until I make thy foes thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion" (Psa. 110:1-2). The Jews who heard these words quoted did not doubt either the Davidic authorship or the divine inspiration. When, then, they found in the crucifixion of Jesus a hindrance to faith in his Messiahship, the apostles rejoined with irresistible proof based on an accepted authority, that the Messiah had not only to die, but also to be raised from the dead, and to ascend to God. Obviously the claims of Jesus to be the Messiah are unique, and complete.
Some Remarkable Predictions
There are other predictions in the Old Testament which are intimately concerned with this subject and throw light on the character of Christ's reign. Isaiah prophesied: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (9:6, 7).
In another prophecy Isaiah identified the "child born" as being in David's line: "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth" (11:1-4). "In mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness" (16:5).
Jeremiah, at the time the kingdom of God was overturned, declared: "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS" (23: 5, 6). This is a remarkable statement, in very few words declaring the basic requirements of God's salvation for man. The Branch of David had to be righteous himself and at the same time one in whom God's righteousness becomes available for men. In the New Testament the same fact is asserted of Jesus when Paul says "he knew no sin" (2 Cor. 5:21) and that he "of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30). Only Jesus is the sinless one through whom God's righteousness is available; he then is the Branch and King of Jeremiah's prophecy. But how came the prophet to declare this? Jeremiah says more; for in the context of the promise that God would restore the Jews to their own land in a time of unparalleled trouble for that people (Jer. 30:3, 7) God say's he will give them a Jewish ruler. "Their children also shall be as aforetime, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all that oppress them. And their nobles shall be of themselves, and their governor shall proceed from the midst of them; and I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto me for who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me?" (30:20, 21). Their governor will draw near to God, having engaged his heart to accomplish this. The language "draw near " is familiar to all who know the Law of Moses: it describes the function of a priest who comes to God on behalf of the people (cf. e.g., Num. 16:5). The Messiah is the redeemer who effects man's reconciliation to God. Again in 33:14-16 the same prophet declares "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. In these days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The Lord our righteousness".
The teaching of Jesus confirms these prophecies, identifies him as the Messiah promised, and declares that he will occupy David's throne over Israel. On one occasion the disciples, having left all to follow him, asked what should be their reward. He answered, "In the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt. 19:28). In the closing hours of his life he said to the twelve, "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me, that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Luke 22:28, 29).
To complete the review of the items enumerated in the covenant with David we must now revert to the promise that the Messiah must build a house for God. We have seen that the Messiah had to be the redeemer: he is qualified for two roles -- kingship and priesthood. As David declared "He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain" (2 Sam. 23:3, 4). The Messiah's rule will lead men to walk in God's ways. In Israel the priest was the instructor of the people in the laws of God, as well as the leader in religious exercises (Deut. 18:18; Mal. 2:7). Jesus, returned, and established in Jerusalem as King, will not only rule mankind in justice and righteousness, but will bring all who live to fear and honour and worship God and to walk in God's ways. This is declared: Behold, the man whose name is The Branch; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord. Even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne: and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both" (Zech. 6:12, 13). This house of God to be erected when Jesus returns, was seen in vision by Ezekiel. The building he saw surpasses in size and splendour any building that man has ever erected. Its outer walls are a mile each way. The prophecy of this temple of God is a fitting climax to the revelation of the arrangements for government in the coming age. It is foretold by other prophecies, such as the following:
"And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore" (Isa. 2:2-4).
"It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: and the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts: In those days it shalt come to pass that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you" (Zech. 8:20-23).
"And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles" (Zech. 14:16).
Its Importance to Us
As the Abrahamic promise is available by Faith to all who will accept it, so the Davidic promise is extended to all who will hear God's promises. Isaiah invites in language of which echoes are found in the appeals of the Son of God himself: "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not: hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me hear, and your soul shall live; and I wilt make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David" (55:1-3).
"I will make a covenant with you": God invites us to share the rule of His Son, to share with him the direction of mankind when the Kingdom of God is established.
We have already seen that Jesus promised such a future to his twelve apostles. He also extends it to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness: "He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father" (Rev. 2:26-28). It was revealed to John that in that day of Christ's reign a multitude of redeemed men and women will sing: "Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth" (Rev. 5:9, 10).