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When God Built David a House

January 13, 2014Filed under theology#devotionsMarkdown source

I have made it my goal to write short posts reflecting on my devotional reading every day. These posts are composed off the cuff, in 30 minutes or less. The following is one such post. Before writing this post, I read: 1 Chronicles 16–20, Psalm 13, Proverbs 13.

First Chronicles 16–17 marks one of the hinges in the progression of salvation history. Of all the great turns in the march of God’s plan, this one is right up there with those that happened in the lives of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. David brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem and instituted the ritual1 of worship that was to characterize the place where God’s presence would dwell thenceforth—a ritual that would produce many of the psalms and that would shape the best of the life of faithful Hebrews for generations to come. Then, Yahweh God blessed David with a covenant promise that far exceeded anything David did (or could have done) for his creator.

It is worth quoting Yahweh’s promise to David at length, to see just how central this promise was to be in the history of God’s plan for saving the world:

“Moreover, I declare to you that the Lord will build you a house.2 When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring3 after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be stablished forever.” (1 Chronicles 17:10b–14)

Much of this finds its first fulfillment in David’s son Solomon, of course. Solomon built a temple for God, and Yahweh did fill it with his presence. Solomon, despite his wandering ways, continued to receive the blessings of God. However, even a casual reading of the rest of this book—the Chronicles— immediately raises the question: How, exactly, will this promise be fulfilled if the Davidic line of kings ended when the Jews were exiled to Babylon?

The New Testament makes it clear, of course: this promise finds its ultimately fulfillment in Jesus Christ. The Messiah fills up a promise that had its first satisfaction in Solomon, but which was left unfinished in that king, great though he was. Jesus is the king whose throne is and will be established forever, from whom the Father’s steadfast love with never be removed, and who indeed built a house for God. Jesus is the one of whom the Father said, “I will be to him a father, and he will be to me a son” (see Hebrews 1:5).

But of course, just as the Hebrews were waiting with longing for a Messiah to come and fulfill this promise in the long years between the Exile and the coming of Christ, so we are awaiting the Messiah’s coming in these long years between the Ascension and the Eschaton. The King is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3), but he has not yet come to claim the whole of his kingdom. But in the interval, we follow David’s lead:

Sing to the Lord, all the earth!
    Tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
    and he is to be held in awe above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
    but the Lord made the heavens,
Splendor and majesty are before him;
    strength and joy are in his place.

Hallelujah. Maranatha.4

  1. Used here in the purely descriptive sense. Though we can all fall into dead ritual, where we practice the mere outward forms of things with no motion of our will in line with the motions of our bodies, not all ritual is dead. Nor is all ritual bad. When our worship is reduced to ritual, we have a problem, but ritual-less worship is anarchy and chaos at best.

  2. I’m skipping over this for the sake of brevity, but I find it really remarkable that when David plans to build God a house, God sends a prophet and tells David, “No, I am going to build you a house.” Here is a small picture of the gospel: God does for us what we are not worthy to do for him.

  3. “Offspring” here is the same word (“seed”) used in the promise that the “offspring” of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head and that the through “offspring” of Abraham the nations would be blessed.

  4. “Come soon!”