Monday, June 5th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 7". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ 2-samuel-7.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 7". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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2 Samuel 7:1
When the king sat in his house. The order is not chronological; for the words, Jehovah had given him rest from all his enemies round about (so the Revised Version, rightly), imply the successful termination, not of all wars necessarily, but certainly of something more than that with the Philistine invaders in the Rephaim valley. A general summary of all David's wars is given in 2 Samuel 8:1-18; and it was probably after he had subdued the Philistines and Moab, and his throne was now fully established, that in some time of peace, possibly before Hanun forced him into wars which won for him an empire, David sent for Nathan, and told him his full desire. Its position here immediately after the account of the bringing of the ark to Zion has a higher unity than that of chronology. It shows that David had always a larger purpose than the mere placing of the ark in its feint; and, as soon as a period of tranquillity arrived, he confided his thoughts to the prophet. Thus, with only one step taken towards his whole plan, David exercised a wise moderation in leaving the service at Gibeon unmolested. As regards the word "rest," we have to distinguish between the first series of wars, which established David firmly on his throne, and the second series, which gave him widespread dominion.
2 Samuel 7:2
A house of cedar; Hebrew, cedars. As these trees were sent by Hiram, and as the house was built, and David now settled in it, some considerable time must have elapsed since his accession. Moreover, the league with Hiram would be the result of David's successes recorded in 2 Samuel 8:1; for the bond of union between the two was their mutual fear of the Philistines. As we have seen before, the alliance with Tyro had a very civilizing effect upon the Hebrews, who were far inferior to the Tyrians in the mechanical arts; and David's house of hewn cedar logs was marvellous in the eyes of a people who still dwelt chiefly in tents. David purposed to build even a more sumptuous palace for Jehovah, and advised with Nathan as his chief counsellor, and the person to whom subsequently the education of Solomon was confided. Within curtains; Hebrew, the curtain; that is, the tent. The tabernacle prepared by Moses for the ark was formed of ten curtains (Exodus 26:1), but the significance lay, not in their number, hut in the dwelling of Jehovah still being a mere temporary lodging, though his people had received from him a settled land.
2 Samuel 7:3
Go, do all that is in thine heart. Nathan rashly approves. The king's purpose seems so pious that he does not doubt its acceptance by God.
2 Samuel 7:4
The word of Jehovah came unto Nathan. Not every word of a prophet was inspired, and only a very few of the prophets, and those only upon great and solemn occasions, spake under the direct influence of the Spirit of God. In his usual relations with the king, Nathan was simply a wise, thoughtful, and God-fearing man. In giving his approval he probably meant no more than that a permanent dwelling for Jehovah was what all pious men were hoping for. But from the days of Samuel to those of Ezra, there was never wanting one or even more holy men who were, on fit occasions, commissioned to bear a message from God to man; and as these generally belonged to the prophetic order, men too often now confound prophecy with prediction. So inveterate is this confusion that even in the Revised Version Amos is made to say, "I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son," whereas the Hebrew distinctly is, "I am no prophet, nor a prophet's son [that is, one trained in the prophetic schools], but I am a herdsman" (Amos 7:16). But though not a prophet by profession, yet Amos was discharging a prophet's higher duty in testifying against wickedness and impiety, and was acting under a special Divine call. Still, he did not belong to the prophetic order, nor wear the garment of black camel's hair, which was their professional dress. On the present occasion, Nathan, in approving, had spoken as a man, but now a Divine message comes to him. How we know not. but in verse 17 it is called a "vision;" and it is also said that it came "that night."
2 Samuel 7:5
Shalt thou, etc.? The question implies an answer in the negative; but there is no disapproval of David's purpose as such; but only the deferring of its full execution unto the days of his son. There is more than this. The idea which runs through the Divine message is that the dwelling of Jehovah in a tent was a fitting symbol of Israel's unquiet possession of the laud. It was David's mission to give them tranquillity and security in the region which they had conquered long ago, but wherein they had never hitherto been able to maintain their liberty unimpaired. Then, upon the accomplishment of David's special duty, his son, Shelomo, i.e. the peaceful, was to build the solid temple, as the proof that Jehovah had now taken permanent possession of the land. We find also a further thought, namely, that the building of the temple signified "the making for David of a house." In its full significance this means that the tribe of Judah and the lineage of David were now chosen by God as the ancestors of the Messiah.
2 Samuel 7:6
I have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle; literally, I have walked continually; that is, I have ever been a wanderer, first, in the wilderness, and subsequently at Gilgal, Shiloh, Nob, and Gibeon. Instead of a "tabernacle," the Hebrew has a "dwelling." This may refer to the houses of Abinadab and Obed-Edom, but the words more probably signify "a tent that was my dwelling."
2 Samuel 7:7
In all the places wherein I have walked; Hebrew, in all wherein I continued walking; that is, in all my walking, in all the whole time wherein I have been a wanderer. Instead of tribes, the Chronicler (1 Chronicles 17:6) reads "judges," the words in the Hebrew being almost identical. "Judges" is, of course, the more easy and natural reading, but "tribes" gives a fuller sense, and is supported by all the versions. For in the troubled anarchy which lasted until Saul's reign, first one tribe and then another was called to the front, and had a temporary ascendancy; but neither did Jehovah give it any command to provide a settled place for his worship, nor did any one of the judges conceive the thought of making his tribe permanently the chief, by providing a fixed abode for the ark and for God's worship within its borders. To feed my people Israel. The shepherd, in biblical language, is the ruler, and to feed is to govern, yet in a kindly way, going in front as the shepherd before his flock, to bear the brunt of danger, to clear the road, and to guide into the safe pastures. So tribe after tribe had been called to bear the brunt of war, and, after winning deliverance, it became its duty to guide anti lead the people. In 1 Kings 8:16, 1Ki 8:18, 1 Kings 8:25, and still more remarkably in 1 Chronicles 22:8, 1 Chronicles 22:9, we find large additions made to the account here given. It follows that we have in this place only a brief summary of the message brought by Nathan, but one containing all the chief points.
2 Samuel 7:8
I took thee from the sheepcote. There is in Nathan's message a marked advance upon the words of all previous prophecies. Hitherto God's promises had been general, and no tribe, and much less any special person, had been chosen as the progenitor of the Messiah. The nearest approach to the selection of a tribe had been the prediction of Judah's supremacy until Shiloh came (Genesis 49:10); but it was not even there expressly declared that Shiloh should be of Judah's race. But now David is clearly chosen. Jehovah takes him from the sheepcote; Hebrew, "the meadow" (see Psalms 78:70). It was in the meadows, the Naioth, round Ramah, that Samuel had gathered the young men of Israel to study their ancient records, and raise their country to a sense of its high calling. In those meadows David had been formed for his high vocation; but he had returned from them to Bethlehem, to feed his father's sheep. And now, "from following the ewes that gave suck," Jehovah takes him to be "his servant," a word of high dignity, applied to but few persons in the Old Testament. It signifies the prime minister, or vicegerent of Jehovah, as the theocratic king, and is the special title of Moses among God's people, and, among the heathen, of Nebuchadnezzar, as one summoned to do a great work for God. But it is in the last twenty-seven chapters of Isaiah that the title reaches its full grandeur. For there, first of all, Israel is called Jehovah's servant, because it was Israel's office to be the witness for the oneness of God amidst the debasing polytheism of all the nations round. And then, finally, the servant is Messiah, as being the personal Representative of God upon earth. The title is now given to David as the type of Christ's kingly office, and also as the sweet singer, who added a new service to the worship of God, and made it more spiritual, and more like the service of angels round God's throne.
2 Samuel 7:9
I have made thee a great name. The widespread conquests of David, and his great empire, were not for the sake of mere earthly dominion. It was, first of all, a type of Messiah's reign, to whom God has premised the heathen for his inheritance, and that his gospel shall be carried to the ends of the earth. But, secondly, if Messiah was to be "David's Son," it was necessary that that king should hold a special place in the hearts of all Israelites. In the fables and tales of the Arabs, it is Solomon who holds the foremost place. Just as our forefathers showed the native qualities of the race by making Arthur's court the abode of prowess and chivalrous bravery; so the Arabs made Solomon's court the representative of that dazzling splendor and magnificence which they so admired; and invested him with superhuman knowledge and magical power, such as made janns and ifreets the humble slaves of his will. In the Old Testament no king is "Jehovah's servant" but David; no king is ever connected with Messiah but David. The religious fervent of the people may gather round a Hezekiah or a Josiah, and prophets may encourage them in their work; but no prophet sees in either of them the ancestor of Christ. It is, however, in the Psalms that we learn the full meaning of Nathan's words. Here a veil is partly drawn over them. But it would be a wilful closing of the eyes to read this message and not bear in mind the clear light with which every word is illumined by the inspired outpouring of David's own heart. He thoroughly understood the fulness and blessedness of God's revelation, and has taught us that it all looked onward to Christ.
2 Samuel 7:10, 2 Samuel 7:11
Moreover I will appoint … will plant. For "moreover," the Hebrew has "and." The tenses also continue the same: "And I have appointed … and have planted." It is all part of the same act. As regards the second verb, the past tense alone makes sense. Jehovah was not about to plant Israel in a place of their own, hut had just done so completely. For David's kingdom had given them security, and with it the power of doing for God that duty which was Israel's special office in the world. Had the anarchy of the times of the judges continued, and the energies of the nation been spent in a hard struggle for existence, that rapid advance in literature which followed upon the institution of Samuel's schools, and which filled David's court with poets and chroniclers, never could have existed, and prophecy would have been impossible. The age of Hezekiah was apparently the culminating period of Hebrew civilization, after which came the depressing influences of the Assyrian invasions, and then long exile, followed by a second weary struggle for existence. If writing was at first a mystery and an art known only to priests, it became throughout the monarchy the possession especially of the prophets, who were Israel's learned men. At the head of their roll stands the matchless Isaiah, and to render it possible for his genius to display itself, not only Samuel's schools, but the security of David's era of conquest, and the long peace and magnificence of Solomon's reign, were all necessary. When "God had given David rest from his enemies round about," he had thereby finally appointed a place for Israel and had planted them there. There is, perhaps, some difficulty in the verb forms at the end of verse 11, but none in the meaning. The reign of David marks an era in the national life. Under him Israel obtained secure possession of the place appointed for it; and now, having no longer to waste its energies in perpetual fighting, the national life grows upwards, and attains to culture, to thought, and civilization. Canaan is now their own, and instead of being mere warriors, they develop national institutions and a national character. What could men do that belongs to a higher and nobler life who were in daily fear of being swept away by Canaanites and Midianites, by Philistines and Ammonites? This miserable period is described as "beforetime," and as "since the day that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel." And here a colon should be placed; and the Hebrew will then proceed, "But now I have caused thee to rest from thine enemies, the anarchy and its attendant weakness is over; "and Jehovah telleth thee that Jehovah will make thee a house." Rest has been given; the establishment of David's family as the Messianic lineage is to follow (see on this promise, 1 Samuel 2:35).
2 Samuel 7:12
Thy seed … which shall proceed. As the son is to be established in the kingdom and to build the house, he must be Solomon, who plainly, therefore, was not as yet born (see note on 2 Samuel 7:1).
2 Samuel 7:13
I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. The temple which Solomon was to build was the symbol of the new development of Israel, and naturally these words suggest a meaning not unworthy of so great an advance in the accomplishment of the nation's mission. Had we, indeed, only this passage, we might be content to take it in a popular sense, as signifying that, whereas Saul's throne (and subsequently that of the many usurpers in Samaria) had but a brief existence, Solomon's descendants should hold for many centuries undisputed possession of the kingdom of Jerusalem. But in Psalms 89:29 we read, "His (David's) seed will I make to endure forever, and his throne as the days of heaven." And again in Psalms 89:36, Psalms 89:37 a continuance is assured to it as lasting as that of the sun and moon. We can scarcely, therefore, be wrong in the conviction that these promises pointed onwards to the establishment of Christ's kingdom, and that the great importance attached to the building of the temple finds its explanation in its relation to him. This full establishment after so long a delay of the Mosaic typical ritual, the addition to it of psalmody, giving it a spiritual side, and making the worship that of the heart, the bestowal of empire, and the rapid development of the people under David and Solomon, were all steps in that wonderful series of special providences which made the Jews fit to be the progeniters of the Messiah, which surrounded him during his ministry with companions capable of understanding and recording his teaching, and provided for him, after his death, missionaries, not merely with zeal enough, but with intellectual gifts sufficient to enable them to persuade both Greece and Rome to listen to tidings so wonderful and mysterious as that God for our salvation had become man. Keil also well points out that the temple was a symbol of Christ's incarnation; for it meant the dwelling of God on earth. "I have surely," says Solomon, "built thee a house of habitation, a place for thee to dwell in forever" (1 Kings 8:13). The same thought was in St. John's mind when he said, "The Word became flesh, and dwelt as in a tabernacle among us" (John 1:14). For the verb used by him, literally "tabernacled," is a comparison between Christ's life on earth, and the dwelling of God in "the tent of meeting." But there is more than this. Christ himself calls his body "the temple" (John 2:19, John 2:21). At the Resurrection he raised up again the temple of his body which the Jews had destroyed, and at the Ascension it was removed from the earth, to be reserved in heaven until his second advent. His reign now is spiritual, and his temple is not a building made with hands, but is the heart of the renewed believer (1 Corinthians 6:19). And this indwelling of Christ in the heart will continue unto the end of the present dispensation. For Christ's indwelling is that also of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16); and the gift of the Spirit continues unto the end of the world. "The Father shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever" (John 14:16).
2 Samuel 7:14
I will be his Father, and he shall be my son. Between father and son there is not only love, but oneness. Whatsoever the father hath, that belongs also to the son by natural right. But this sonship is magnified in the Psalms beyond the measure of Solomon or any natural limits. The Son there is "the Firstborn," which Solomon was not, "higher than the kings of the earth" (Psalms 89:27); and he must have "the nations for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession" (Psalms 2:8). Psalms like the second and seventy-second belong, not to Solomon personally, but to him as the type of the prince of Peace; and they help to show us what is the true meaning and fulfilment of the words here. The rod of men; that is, such punishment as men fitly receive for their faults. David's natural posterity was to be exempt neither from human depravity, nor from punishment, nor from the changes and chances of mortal life. With them, as with men generally, there would be a tangled skein, of virtue and sin, of folly and wisdom, of terrible fall and penitent recovery. But there was to be no blotting out of David's lineage. Great earthly houses, in the long course of events, one after another become extinct, and even the tabernacle of David was to fall (Amos 9:11), but not forever. God would "raise up its ruins' in Christ, and "build it as in the days of old." So in Isaiah 9:1 there is the same thought of the complete down-hewing of David's earthly lineage, yet only to rise again to nobler life and vigour, in the Branch, or Sucker, that was to spring from the fallen trunk.
2 Samuel 7:15, 2 Samuel 7:16
Before thee. This does not refer to time, but means "in thy presence," or "before thy face," that is, "as thou hast thyself been witness." There is a strong contrast between the fate of Saul's house and this eternal endurance promised to that of David. The lineage of Saul might have made a new start in Jonathan, and even when he died at Gilboa, he left a son behind him. Still, no one ever locked upon Mephibosheth as having any title to the throne; and though Shimei (2 Samuel 16:5) may have conceived the hope that, if David were overthrown, the kingdom might return to Saul's family, yet, as a matter of fact, among the many vicissitudes of the ten tribes, the attempt never was made to search for a descendant of Saul to be Israel's king. Saul's was a royalty for one generation; David's throne was to be established forever. Not because David was sinless. His character is sullied by crimes of the darkest hue. But he never sank into a mere tyrant, such as Saul was towards David and towards the priests at Nob. Nor did David ever become an irreligious man (1 Samuel 22:18, 1 Samuel 22:19; 1 Samuel 28:15), though there is in him a strange and painful mixture of great good and great evil. The salt that preserves his character is his genuine sincerity and earnestness both towards God and man; and these qualities make him not unworthy of the high place he holds among God s people. Still, the premise was not because of David's deserts, but because from him was to come the Christ, who is blessed. forevermore.
2 Samuel 7:17
Vision. This word does not imply that Nathan saw anything with the natural eye, but signifies that sort of prophecy which was vouchsafed to a "seer." Thus the prophecies of Isaiah, of Nahum, and of Obadiah are called "visions." Probably the word is taken from the fixed gaze, with which the seer looked into the far off world with unmoved eyes, yet seeing not with them, but with the spiritual sight within. It would thus be an intellectual process accompanied by a rigidity of the natural organs, caused partly by intensity of feeling, but chiefly by mental preoccupation, which left no faculty at liberty to discharge its ordinary function.
2 Samuel 7:18
David … sat before the Lord. The word "sat" is usually explained by commentators as meaning "tarried." The rabbins give the word its ordinary meaning, and say that it was the privilege of kings to pray in a sitting posture. But we cannot possibly believe that kings at this early stage had established a special etiquette for observance in prayer, and the difficulty is merely imaginary. Because the Jews prayed standing, and we moderns pray kneeling, we both assume that to pray sitting was an irreverent act. It was not so, nor are we to think of David as sitting at ease in a chair. He sat upon the ground, as was the Oriental custom, with his feet doubled under him, and his head bent forward; and in this posture meditated upon Jehovah's message, and then poured out his thoughts. As it is expressly said that "he sat before Jehovah," the place must have been the outer court of the tabernacle. Who am I, O Lord Jehovah! In the Authorized Version Jehovah is rendered "God," because it has the vowels of the word Elohim; usually it is rendered "Lord," because the Masserites attached to it the vowels of Adonai, "lord," equivalent to Dominus. As Adonai here precedes Jehovah, the Massorites were driven from their usual practice, and were so superstitious as to suppose it more reverent to pronounce the name Elohim than that of Jehovah, to which the Jews attached magical powers. David's words are not so much a prayer as a meditation, full of thanksgiving, and even of wonder at the greatness of God's mercies to him. In it he first acknowledges his own unworthiness and the meanness of his father's house compared with the high dignity which God is bestowing upon him. For not only has he raised him to the kingly office, but promised him the continuance of his house "for a great while to come." Whether David understood as yet that he was now placed in the same position as Abraham of old, in that "in his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed," is uncertain, and depends upon the interpretation put upon the following words. This only we may affirm, that whet he says in this place of his house remaining until a distant future falls far short of the meaning of the passages quoted above from the Psalms.
2 Samuel 7:19
And is this the manner of man, O Lord God? Hebrew, and this is the law of man, O Lord Jehovah. In the parallel passage (1 Chronicles 17:17) the Hebrew has, "And thou hast regarded me according to the law of a man of high degree." The rendering of the Authorized Version here, which, by making the clause interrogative, implies a negative, gives absolutely no sense; but some commentators render, "And this is the manner of men, O Lord Jehovah," understanding thereby that God was acting towards David in a human manner, that is, as an earthly friend and benefactor would do. But though the Revised Version favours this rendering, the Hebrew word torah never has this meaning, and, unless, the attempt be made to amend the text, for which the versions give no help, we must take torah in its usual sense, and understand that this continuance of David's house into the distant future has now become a human law, that is, a divinely constituted ordinance, which must now take its place among the laws which govern human affairs. The words are undoubtedly difficult, and we feel that David was speaking in an ejaculatory manner, in sentences but half expressed, breaking forth from him bit by bit, under the pressure of deep excitement within. We notice too that, while there is no direct reference to the Messiah in David's words, yet that the Psalms indicate that he did connect the duration of his house with the Messiah's advent; and this ejaculation may have sprung forth, if not from a fully formed conviction, yet from the feeling that the permanence of his house was for the purpose of a higher kingdom than that of Jerusalem; and so the promise was a "law of man" and the promulgation of a decree which affected the whole human race. This may be the meaning of the Vulgate, which renders "a law of Adam," that is, one embracing within its scope all Adam's race,
2 Samuel 7:20
Thou, Lord. God, knowest thy servant. The Hebrew throughout has Lord Jehovah, except in 2 Samuel 7:22, 2 Samuel 7:25, where it has "Jehovah God," the title of Deity used in Genesis 2:1-25. The repeated use Of this covenant and personal name of God is very emphatic; and the appeal to Jehovah's knowledge of his heart reminds us of similar outpourings of David's consciousness of his sincere devotion to his Maker, as for instance in Psalms 17:3.
2 Samuel 7:21
For thy word's sake; In 1 Chronicles 17:19 we read, "For thy servant's sake." The phrase seemed, perhaps, to the Chronicler difficult, but it does not mean "because of thy previous promise," for no such promise had been given, but "because thou hast now said it." Nor does it imply pre-existing merit in David, but that God had now chosen to declare his will, and what was according to his own heart. It thus makes God's own good will and pleasure the cause of the great honours bestowed upon David. Instead of these great things, the Hebrew has this great thing; that is, the lasting continuance of David's family.
2 Samuel 7:22
Wherefore thou art great. God's goodness is to David a proof of his greatness, and he sees it displayed, not only in his dealings with himself, but also in the past history of the Jewish nation. There is in this a depth of evangelic piety. An unconverted heart would see the greatness of God in the majesty of creation, or in severe dealings with the impenitent. David saw it in acts of mercy and kindness. We look upon Elijah as the very type of sternness, yet he too recognized the presence of God in "the still small voice" of gentleness and love (1 Kings 19:13).
2 Samuel 7:23
And what one nation, etc.? The translation should be, And who is like thy people, like Israel, the one nation upon earth which God went to redeem for himself to be his people, and to make for him a name, etc.? Israel both was and remains to this day a nation unique in its history, both in those early dealings of God with it, and also in its later history and its marvellous preservation unto this day. It is remarkable that in this place the word for "God," Elohim, is followed by a verb plural, the almost invariable rule in Hebrew being that, though Elohim is itself plural, it takes a verb singular whenever it refers to the true God. In the corresponding passage (1 Chronicles 17:21) the verb is in the singular. No adequate reason has been given for this deviation, but probably the usage in these early times was not so strict as it became subsequently. It is the influence of writing, and of the eye becoming conversant with writing, that makes men correct in their use of language and in the spelling of words. In the Syriac Church, God the Word and God the Holy Ghost were at first spoken of in the feminine gender, because "Word" and "Spirit" are both feminine nouns; but grammar soon gave way to soundness of thought and feeling. So probably in colloquial language Elohim was often used with a verb plural, but correct thinking forbade and overruled grammar. We may regard this, then, as one of the few passages in which the colloquial usage has escaped correction, and attach no further importance to it. For you. "You" is plural, and refers to the people. The Vulgate has "for them," which is in accordance with the greater exactness of modern grammar. But sudden changes of person are very common in Hebrew, which follows the rules of thought rather than of written composition; and so David speaks of Israel as you, because they seemed to him to be present. We must note, however, that in the words that follow, for thy land, and thy people, the pronoun is singular, and refers to God. From the nations and their gods. Both the Authorized Version and the Revised Version, by inserting "from," which is not in the Hebrew, take "nations" as in apposition with "Egypt;" but a moment's consideration shows that this is untenable, as "nations" is plural. But the whole verse is so full of grammatical difficulties as to make it extremely probable that the text is corrupt, and that we ought to supply the verb "to drive out," which is actually read in 1 Chronicles 17:21, or even to substitute it in the place of "for thy land," which is omitted in the parallel passage. The nations which God drove out had nothing to do with Egypt, but were the seven dominant tribes of Canaan; and the bestowal upon Israel of their territories was as essential a part of Jehovah's dealings with his people as the Exodus itself. Thus the reading will be, To drive out before thy people, whom thou purchasedst for thee from Egypt, nations and their gods.
2 Samuel 7:24
For thou hast confirmed. The word means "thou hast firmly and securely established Israel to "be thy people." This plainly refers to [he settlement in Canaan, now at last completed by David's victories, and not to the deliverance from Egypt. In the words that follow David recognizes the spiritual importance, not only of the permanent continuance of his house, but also of the empire given unto him. For Israel is now to be a people forever: and thou, Jehovah, art become their God. It is very necessary to retain here the personal name, Jehovah, as it is in the Hebrew, and not dilute it down to the Lord of the Septuagint. For now, to David's mind, the covenant seemed complete, and ratified forever. Israel is to have an everlasting existence—a promise belonging to it in its full sense only spiritually. For as long as the world lasts, it is against the spiritual Israel that the gates of hell shall never prevail. And next, first as the theocratic people, and then as the Church, it is to hold a unique relation to Jehovah, who is to be its God. For Israel, that is, the Jewish and the Christian Church, worships, not the God of nature, Elohim, but Jehovah, the God of grace; and they learn his attributes, not from philosophy, nor by metaphysical inquiry, but from his own revealed will, in which he teaches us what he is, what we are, and how we are to become one with him.
2 Samuel 7:25, 2 Samuel 7:26
And now, O Lord God; Hebrew, Jehovah God. Similarly, in 2 Samuel 7:26 the Hebrew is "Let thy Name be magnified forever, saying, Jehovah Sabaoth is God over Israel." The special relation of Jehovah to Israel is throughout kept constantly in view; for Jehovah is the Name of Deity in covenant with his people, and it is in the confirmation and permanence of the covenant that David sees the true value of the lasting continuance of his own house.
2 Samuel 7:27
Thou hast revealed to thy servant; Hebrew, thou hast uncovered the ear of thy servant. (see note on 1 Samuel 9:15). Hath thy servant found in his heart; Hebrew, hath found his heart. The word "heart" has a wide meaning in Hebrew, embracing both our intellectual and our moral powers. Here it simply means "courage," as in, 1 Samuel 17:32. The Revised Version puts this in the margin: "Therefore hath thy servant been bold to pray this prayer."
2 Samuel 7:28
And now, O Lord God, thou art that God. The pronoun rendered "that" is really a personal pronoun used as the copula, which the Authorized Version inserts in italics. As this grammatical usage, which is common to all the Semitic languages, was not understood at the time when our version was made, we find all the parts of the verb "to be" constantly printed in italics, as though absent, while really they are expressed in the Oriental way. This has the advantage, however, of reminding the reader that wherever the verb "to be" is printed in Roman characters it has a much stronger meaning than the mere union of subject and predicate. Thus in Genesis 1:2 the first "was," in Roman type, means "existed," or possibly "became;" the second "was," in italics, is simply the copula. Here the correct translation is, And now, O Lord Jehovah, thou art the God; i.e. the one real, true God.
2 Samuel 7:29
Let it please thee to bless; or, begin and bless. Literally, the verb signifies to make up the mind and set about the doing of the thing purposed. Thus David prays that the blessing may now at once begin to take effect. It is often rendered "please" in our version, because the verb is one used only of a determination resolved upon of the free will of the purposer. Its force is well seen in Job 6:9, where what Job prays for is that God would deliberate no longer, but decide the matter and set about destroying him. The Authorized Version was led, by the use of this verse "please," to adopt the optative form. Really, it is the language of firm faith, and should be rendered, And now [there is no "therefore"] begin of thy own good will, and bless the house of thy servant.
2 Samuel 7:1-11
The facts are:
1. David, being settled in his kingdom and furnished with a permanent place of abode, is dissatisfied that the ark of the Lord should remain in a frail tent.
2. He sends for Nathan, and intimates his desire to build a fitting house for the Lord, and receives encouragement from the prophet.
3. During a vision of the night Nathan is directed to inform David that his desire cannot be realized; that all along it had been God's will to move from place to place in a tent (2 Samuel 7:6); that it was never his purpose to have any other abode while Israel was unsettled (2 Samuel 7:7).
4. He is further to inform David that the dwelling in a tent, and his own call from the sheepcote (2 Samuel 7:8) to be a leader of Israel, were both parts of one design, and that the success vouchsafed to him (2 Samuel 7:9) was evidence of this.
5. Also, David is to know that, in pursuance of the same purpose, God gave his people a land of their own, and planted (these verbs to be taken as perfects, not as converted into futures) them in a permanent abode, free from the embarrassment of such powerful assailants as annoyed them in the time of the judges, and from which they now have rest.
6. The good desire of David, though not to be now realized, is acknowledged by the assurance that God has further purposed to establish his house in Israel.
Commendable but unseasonable zeal.
Every reader of the narrative at once feels how natural and beautiful it was in David to desire, for the symbol of God's presence among his people, an abode somewhat commensurate with its glory and suggestive of permanence. It was in keeping with all the antecedents of his life, and there was manifested an exquisite spiritual sensibility in mentioning first of all so important a subject as a change in the abode of the ark to the prophet who represented the Divine source of guidance as distinguished from civil authority. What are the elements which render such zeal commendable and at the same time unseasonable?
I. THERE IS A PERSONAL ABSORPTION IN THE INTERESTS OF GOD'S KINGDOM AMONG MEN. God's kingdom among men was the great fact to be emphasized and illustrated in the life of the chosen race, suggestive of a more developed kingdom in later times. This fact had absorbed the energies of Moses, but was somewhat obscured when the people, weary of the existing form of the theocracy, asked for and obtained king in Saul. From the first David had, in his own life, restored the idea of the Divine kingdom to the distinctness of Mosaic times, and counted himself to have no function in the world apart from seeking to realize it in the national experience. For it he lived and ruled; for it he prayed, and of it he sang. This was the fountainhead of all his zeal, and the key to the communication made to Nathan. Herein also is the secret of all acceptable Christian zeal. We are right in feeling and purpose only in so far as our entire life is one with Christ's. Human life rises to its highest level only when it causes all its strength to flow in with the great stream of spiritual force which one day is to cover the earth. It is not patronage of institutions, study or criticism of Christian forms of thought and action, friendly feeling towards workers in mission fields, but personal identification with the interests of Christ's kingdom as the most vital and precious of all interests. This is a practical illustration of the phrase, "We have the mind of Christ."
II. THERE IS A WHOLESOME FEAR LEST PRIVATE AND SECULAR PROSPERITY SHOULD GENERATE SELFISHNESS. David was blessed with great prosperity in home and in state. In clearer, more reflective moods, he saw that this was connected with the furtherance of the great purpose of God in the world; but amidst the hurry of life and inevitable weaknesses of the moral nature, it was liable to produce a feeling of selfish content with his own condition. The dangers of prosperity are proverbial. His words to Nathan, contrasting his own permanent dwelling with the slender covering of the ark, revealed the thoughts and feelings of a man sensible of a grave spiritual danger, and anxious not to fall into it. It is sometimes, in the course of doing God's work, or what may be called secular work in a Christly spirit, that Providence grants men secular prosperity. Then comes the testing time of the religious life. Many fall under the spell, and undue absorption in temporal personal comfort robs the kingdom of Christ of much thought and energy it otherwise would have received. The pleasures of the "house of cedar" shut out the condition of the spiritual kingdom. But where zeal is sound, watchfulness is maintained, and spiritual growth keeps pace with worldly prosperity, there will be cherished a wholesome dread lest the blessings which come from God should in any measure wean the heart from him and the supreme interests of his kingdom.
III. THERE IS A PERCEPTION OF THE TEMPORARY CHARACTER OF EXISTING RELIGIOUS APPLIANCES. Spiritual instinct led David to feel that the tent was not suited as the abode in perpetuity of the eternal, unchangeable God. There was an incongruity between the nature of the occupant and the frailty and transitoriness of the dwelling place. Apart, then, from the contrast with his own "cedar house," he saw that the arrangement which had received Divine sanction through many generations was not to be considered as perfect and unalterable. This was confirmed by the faith he cherished that the presence of God among his people was in pursuance of the great historic promise made to Abraham (Genesis 22:17, Genesis 22:18), and preparatory to some further unfolding of the plan which embraced within its scope all the nations of the earth. So far his zeal in seeking a permanent abode for the ark was enlightened. And this is a characteristic of all true zeal. It does not merely proceed from impulse and strong feeling; it has respect to the nature of the kingdom of Christ and the variability of its outward appliances according to the stages of its development. The visible forms and arrangements adapted to one state of society may need revision and change more or less radical to render the deposit of truth more effective in its influence on a different state of society. A mere love of change is not identical with commendable zeal; a bare feeling that simple variation in outward forms will strengthen the power of religion is no sure guide; but a distinction between the permanent truth centring in Christ, and the transitoriness of the setting of that truth, will lead to a desire, when occasion offers, to make such modifications in the circumstantials of religion as may best accord with the nature of the truth on the one side and the development of human society on the either.
IV. THE IMPERFECTION OF THE ZEAL MAY LIE IN THE ERROR AS TO SEASONABLENESS. In this case all seemed right and sound, in accordance with the purest love and devotion, both to David and to Nathan. Subsequent light from God himself showed that here feeling was right and thought also up to a given point, but that the zeal was inappropriate by reason of a defective knowledge of the specific purposes of God. There were reasons in the Divine mind why David, at this juncture, should not build a house for the Lord. Probably his work of consolidation was not sufficiently advanced, and either then or later on he was reminded that a man of peace was alone suited for such work (1 Chronicles 22:8; 1 Chronicles 28:3). The defectiveness of the judgment even of good men is cause of much mistake in altering the institutions and visible agencies of the Church. There are times when neither David nor Nathan may depend on their present feelings and knowledge, but more light must be sought from the Head of the Church. However sound the principle that forms and circumstantials do not possess the permanence belonging to the central truth they cover, still a busy zeal eager to introduce something new as more suited to a later development, even though shown by the most sincere of men, must be regarded with distrust unless Providence, by some means as good to us as was Nathan's vision to David, makes it quite clear that the time has come when the old should give place to the new. Holy desire, even when conjoined with knowledge of a limited experience, may not be fitly realized because God's time is not quite come.
1. Where there is sincere piety there will be jealousy lest the cause of God should not receive its due consideration.
2. It will be a mark of prosperous piety amidst prosperous circumstances when men deliberately study how they may more worthily serve God and give him the honour due to his Name.
3. We should always anticipate that, as time advances, there will be fresh opportunities for manifesting our devotion, even though our specific methods be not wisest.
4. It is a noble ambition to seek to render the house of God as perfect as human means can make it, and in this often we see contrasts in character (2 Samuel 7:1-3; cf. Haggai 1:2, Haggai 1:5). A good man's life's work attains completion in so far as he combines, with advancing secular prosperity, regard for the prosperity of religion.
The historic development of God's purpose concerning man.
In 2 Samuel 7:4-11 we have an exposition of the grounds on which God declined to accept David's proposal to build a house for him. The motive was good, and there was a certain perception of propriety in the design, but as its unseasonableness resulted from imperfect knowledge of the Divine will, that will is here made known.
I. GOD HAS A PURPOSE CONCERNING MAN. This is the basis of the declaration to David. It may, indeed, be said that there is a Divine purpose in the existence of every atom and form of force, since each is what it is by the will of God, and is related to all the rest of the universe in a definite way, so as to issue in a progressive order. Every change is thus the working out in the material world of a purpose of the eternal mind. But while this is true of man also considered as an organized creature in the world, it is further true of him that there is a purpose in the eternal mind of which he is the object, and to work out which all other things are means and agents. God has something to effect for man as well as by man. The New Testament informs us that it is spiritual in its nature, and abounding with good to man and glory to God..
II. GOD'S PURPOSE CONCERNING MAN IS INCORPORATED WITH HUMAN AFFAIRS. It is pointed out to David that the history of his ancestors in Egypt and under the judges, and also his own personal history, have been the vehicle through which this purpose has been gradually working. God's thoughts for man assume concrete forms. They enter as the golden thread into the rough web of human life. Human wills work in their own free way, but another will works with them, and uses them in their free course for the manifestation of itself. Abraham's domestic life, Israel's sojourn in Egypt and the desert, the struggle for existence during the period of the judges, and the raising up and fall of Saul, and the exploits of David, were occasions and forms by which that redemptive purpose revealed itself which later on in Judaea, in Pilate's hall and in the ages of Christendom, became more distinct and yet more one with human interests.
III. IN THE OUTWORKING OF THE PURPOSE TEMPORARY INSTITUTIONS ARE CREATED. The ark and the tabernacle were the creation of the Divine purpose working along the line of human history. They were the product of two things—the purpose and the incidents of Israel's existence. David was right in viewing the tabernacle as essentially temporary; but he is reminded (2 Samuel 7:6) that it expressed the Divine will for the time because of the human element through which that will was working onwards. A succession of temporary expedients is traceable from the first to the second Adam. One by one they disappeared before the approach of the true Light. Many of the modern expedients of the Church will prove their temporary character in so far as Christ's holy will works its way into the heart of the world, and men, possessing this life, become in the best sense a law to themselves (1 Corinthians 13:8-10).
IV. THE DIRECT CONTROL OF GOD SECURES TRANSITION FROM STAGE TO STAGE. The words to David were, "I brought up the children of Israel;" "I have walked in a tent;" "I commanded to feed;" "I took thee from the sheepcote;" "I have appointed a place." Thus men were free, and history was formed by the free action of man; but, still, in pursuance of the Divine purpose, an unseen hand so fashioned the sum of human free action that captivity in Egypt yielded to a settled home, and a good shepherd appeared to care for the flock in that settled home. It was this recognition of the actual control of God so as to shape the items of human history and secure a succession of transitions towards a definite goal that distinguished the teaching of the prophets. It is this which gave such assurance to apostles (Romans 8:22, Romans 8:28, Romans 8:31). The contending forces of each age are subject to him who by his mighty working can subdue all things unto himself (Philippians 3:21).
V. THE VALUE OF MEANS IN THE WORKING OUT OF THE PURPOSE IS RELATIVE. David's pious dissatisfaction with the tabernacle as an abode for the ark was met by the assurance (2 Samuel 7:6, 2 Samuel 7:7) that God was not dissatisfied, but had shown his approval of his servants who were identified with its maintenance. The tabernacle may have been inadequate to the later stage, but it was perfect in its adaptation to the early stage of God's method of working. He never complained of disrespect to his Name; he even honoured his servants who served him with such humble means. This applies to the methods by which, in different ages, revelations came to men—agencies for diffusing and preserving the truth, the condition of the Churches by which his will is still done and the individual efforts of Christians to bring on the final triumph of Christ. Those who will not approve of action and appliances and methods till they meet with what is absolutely perfect, do not know history, or else, knowing it, are unwilling to accept its lessons. In an imperfect world where perfect holiness has to be attained through means inferior, and out of perfect relation to the end in view, we have to estimate each method and agency by its fitness to raise us to a stage above the present, and in which it may be dispensed with for something that will be a stepping stone to a still higher point.
VI. THE WHOLE OF THE SUCCESSIVE STAGES TEND TO THE PERMANENT DWELLING OF GOD WITH MAN; David was fight in his ambition and faith. To have God permanently among Israel was the perfection of holy desire. All hitherto had pointed in that direction; and though in the visible sense in which David desired it his wishes were not to be granted, yet he was pointed on to the reality of a "house" (2 Samuel 7:11), which we know involved the raising up of Immanuel. This is the goal of all Old Testament revelations and ancient forms of instruction and discipline. And now that God has been visibly manifest in the flesh, the process is going on by which spiritually the dwelling of God with man in permanent union is to be realized (2 Corinthians 3:7-11; cf. Ephesians 2:18-22).
1. Life should be conducted on the principle that God is with man and working with and for him.
2. The comparison of events illustrated by the Bible teaching will enable us to trace out the line of God's Working.
3. Although occasions may arise, as during periods of Israel's history, when the signs of God's working are obscured (Isaiah 45:15), our faith should rest on the general revelation.
4. However unable we may be sometimes to see the unity of God's working, Providence will throw light upon it, and by some explicit "I have walked," "I took thee," our confidence will be confirmed.
5. All our desires and efforts and methods should, in their nature, have reference to the great issue—God's habitation of the Church through the Spirit.
Consolation in disappointment.
Although 2 Samuel 7:11, 2 Samuel 7:12 of Psalms 132:1-18, make it clear that the psalm was written after the date of Nathan's visit to David, it is highly probable that the sentiments expressed in Psalms 132:3-5 of that psalm were cherished before the king unbosomed himself to the prophet. In the fallibility characteristic of prophets when not authorized to speak by God, Nathan piously encouraged his king in his cherished wishes, and it is certain that that night David went to rest believing that now, with the concurrence of so good a man, the great ambition of his heart would soon be realized. The authorized revelation of the prophet on the following day must have brought with it a disappointment corresponding in bitterness to the previous elevation of feeling. But the gentle, kindly way in which it is allowed to fall is a beautiful instance of God's tenderness toward his people.
I. GOD RECOGNIZES US AS HIS OWN. There was balm in the words, "tell my servant David." In the beginning of his career David knew that he was called of God, but many a year had passed, and many a sore spiritual conflict with varied success had been endured. It was then refreshing to his spirit to be thus distinctly acknowledged to be the servant of the Most High—one honoured in heaven and identified with the carrying out of God's will on earth. To be owned of God, to have the witness of his Spirit with ours that we are his, to know on good evidence that our life is moving along the lines of his purpose,—what more satisfying and comforting when some cherished desire is denied? Paul's thorn in the flesh and consequent disappointment of holy ambition was even welcome when the Lord sent a message assuring that he was his "servant"—to do some work in the world, though not in the form desired. It is much in life if, amidst many failures of character and frustration of cherished desires, a man is permitted to know that God is not ashamed of him, and still honours him with a place among the great body of coworkers with himself.
II. PROVIDENCE GRADUALLY MAKES CLEAR, IN PART AT LEAST, THE WISDOM OF THE DISAPPOINTMENT. The first note of Nathan's message brought sorrow and even anguish of spirit. Fond hopes of joyous activity in a blessed cause were crushed. The dream of holy hours vanished. Loving toil was rejected. The heart sank. But by degrees, as the message unfolded and the course of Providence in reference to the tabernacle and settlement of Israel were unfolded, and probably reference made to wars yet impending (Psalms 132:6-10; cf. 2 Samuel 8:1-8; 1Ki 5:3, 1 Kings 5:4; 1 Kings 8:19), the reasons of the Divine conduct became manifest, and the troubled heart could rest in an unerring wisdom alone. A similar course was taken with the apostles when their Lord soothed their disappointment at his expected departure by partially expounding the reason of his conduct (John 14:1-4). Sometimes Christian workers who have, through sickness, failing opportunities, temporal disasters, and defective holiness of life, been denied the privilege of accomplishing all that was in their heart for Christ, have had to dwell in dense darkness for a while; but gradually events have occurred and light from God's Word has come which have shown how just and even kind it was that, under all the circumstances of the ease, the disappointment came. The day will come when the bitter experiences of life will be so seen in their varied relations to ourselves and others as to give occasion for thankfulness.
III. THERE IS EVIDENCE THAT GOD WILL USE US IN OTHER WAYS. "My servant" meant to David that there was yet noble work to do for God. Human choice of the old form of work is not always best. In the great kingdom that is being established there is scope for many energies in manifold forms; and as the kingdom is one, every worker is honourable and every work essential. To keep the door of the sanctuary, to wash the feet of weary pilgrims, to give a cup of cold water, to feed the hungry, to place a mite in the treasury, and visit the widow and fatherless, are services honoured as truly as erecting a temple and as necessary to the perfection of the kingdom of God on earth. The Apostle Paul could not charm men by unfettered eloquence, but he could bless the universal Church by his example of loving acquiescence in the Lord's will (2 Corinthians 12:8-10). Even the very ambitions that have not been gratified may be used up by God as means to inspire others with generous aims and lofty aspirations.
IV. GOD REVEALS TO THE SPIRIT A CROWNING BLESSING. It was a repayment of David's loving devotion in his own kind when the prophet was instructed to reveal to him that God would "make him a house." To an Oriental monarch, especially after the sad failure of Saul, there could not have been a more coveted distinction than being blessed with a posterity that should hold his place in the kingdom. The blessing in this case, we know, carried with it also a spiritual significance embodied in the expression applied to Christ, "the Son of David." This cannot be regarded simply as a reward for the design to build a house for the Lord—it was part of a great purpose from the beginning; but it was clearly brought in here as a matter revealed for the soothing of David's spirit in a season of disappointment. In this way the future blessedness of the faithful is revealed in order that they may have abundant consolation. Good men do not live and labour for future rewards, but from love of Christ and passionate sympathy with the purposes of his heart; nevertheless, the pastor, missionary, and parent whose hopes sometimes seem blighted, rejoice to be able to think of an issue of their life which, in spite of all appearances, redounds to the glory of God. "Here am I, and the souls thou hast given me," is to be true of multitudes. God will give a godly seed, "a house" better and more enduring than any we could build for him (Psalms 126:5, Psalms 126:6; Matthew 19:29).
2 Samuel 7:12-29
The facts are:
1. The prophet declares to David
(1) that he shall have a seed who shall build a house for the Lord;
(2) that this successor shall be regarded as a son, and, while the subject of discipline, if needed, shall not be cast off as was Saul; and
(3) that the house and kingdom thus established shall endure forever.
2. David, in response to the message, acknowledges ,the condescension and bounty of God in what he had done and promised.
3. He confesses that all is of the free unmerited loving kindness of God, and regards this wonderful superhuman goodness as being an illustration of the existence of a love transcending all that is known to man.
4. He recognizes the blessedness of Israel in being under the care and guidance of One so supremely good, and in being honoured to be distinctively his people.
5. He prays that the good and glorious things said of his house and of Israel may come to pass, and so bring out into public view and forever the glory of God.
6. He concludes with a prayer, based on the faithfulness and goodness of God, that grace may be bestowed on the house of David, so that it may fulfil the purpose so graciously formed and now more explicitly revealed.
The testing period, and its rewards.
We have here brought out a contrast between Saul and David. Both were accepted of God (1Sa 9:15-17; 1 Samuel 16:7-12, 1 Samuel 16:13). A period of testing was assigned to each of them, and Saul failed in his (1 Samuel 13:13, 1 Samuel 13:14), while David succeeded (2 Samuel 7:8-12, 2 Samuel 7:15). The whole facts show that for each of them, in his official capacity, there was a probation or testing time, which was not coextensive with the duration of life, but sufficient to prove fitness for being the instrument for the furtherance of the Divine purpose of redemption through the Messiah. David was found fit for Divine use, and hence, in the prime of his days, he was assured of the completion of his life's work and of issues most glorious.
I. THE EARLY STAGES OF A CAREER DETERMINE ITS ISSUE. From his call and anointing up to his desire to build a house for the Lord, David had been taking the first steps of his public life; on the whole, he had been wise, devout, loyal to God, zealous for the Divine kingdom among men. The great work of his entire life was thereby virtually ensured. All future successes were now germinal. Saul's future was blasted because the early testing years were unimproved; David's future was made sure because his trial had proved his sterling qualities. The years of early manhood carry in them the future of the man. A Christian "found faithful" enters on a wider ministry (1 Timothy 1:12). The Church that has kept true in trial is safe in view of future perils (Revelation 3:10-12). The proper use of five talents carries with it the promise of use of ten talents. According to the development of Christian character in the early stages of religious life will be its power and victories unto the very end. The beginnings of things are the ends of things in miniature. Character is a prophecy. Ultimate successes lie hidden in first adjustments.
II. THE BLESSED ISSUES OF A PROBATION ARE IN THE ORDER OF NATURE. The bestowment of the honour of being founder of a great line of kings on David was an act of Divine favour, marking approval of his fidelity during the testing time of life; but it was not a mere artificial, arbitrary arrangement. It was the announcement of the fact that God had so ordered things that he, by faithfulness, thus far had acquired the qualities which a holy God could and would use up in bringing to pass his great purposes. Saul was proved naturally unfit to inaugurate a permanent line; David was proved naturally suited for that end. This runs through all things. A sapling that has, in spite of storms, passed well through the ordeals of early life contains within itself the vital qualities which will develop into a perfect tree. It is by force of the virtues and acquirements of the testing time Of early manhood that subsequent achievements are won. The spiritual characteristics of the man "counted worthy" of a ministry explain the triumph of his life's work; for, though the blessing of God is essential, yet it is the order of nature in the religious sphere that the blessing comes where those characteristics find exercise. The future blessedness of the saints is the outgrowth of the individual character acquired during the earthly period of trial. Continuity, order, and, in proper sense of the term, nature, characterize the succession of events in individual and Church experience from first to last.
III. THE ASSURANCE OF FINAL SUCCESS HELPS A TRUE MAN TO ITS REALIZATION. The promise of a "house" and a permanent "kingdom" would not excite vanity and presumption' in David, because he was a true man of God. There is an adaptation in the assurance given to the tested character of the man. It was to David as the warm sun and gentle dew to the good seed hidden in good ground. A true heart responds to God's love and bounteous gifts by increased devotion. Thus the assurance has a natural tendency in a true heart to fulfil itself. Wherever other tendencies appear, it is evidence that the heart is not right, anti that the assurance is not intended for the individual. The free grace of God and abounding assurances that he will keep his people from falling are never abused except by those who are not children of God (Romans 6:14, Romans 6:15; 2 Corinthians 5:14, 2 Corinthians 5:15).
The blending of the temporal and the eternal.
The prophecy in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 is not as be regarded as a sudden and isolated revelation of the purpose of God, which burst upon the mind of one who had no previous conceptions of a great purpose being wrought out in the line of human history. All along David was aware of his being used for more than ordinary issues in relation to the great promise made to Abraham. The Aurora Borealis seems, to ignorant men, a disconnected unaccountable phenomenon, but others know it to be a natural occurrence in a beautiful order of things correlated to all else in the material world. In like manner, we now know that this prophecy is part of an order of revelation, coming in at just the right time, and interpretable on principles well ascertained. The temporal and eternal are blended—
I. IN THE MATERIAL ORDER. The results of research into the constitution and order of material things show that the visible, changeable forms of matter coexist with a permanent something which works in and through them. They vary; it abides. They prepare the way for others of kindred nature and form; it uses up the old and the new and marks out its eternal course by means of them. Men call it force. Possibly, probably, there is a persistent something answering to that name—the correlative of our exertion of will power—but it, at all events, is only the mode in which the Divine purpose works itself out into visible forms and changes. The temporal and eternal are ever blended.
II. IN THE CONSTITUTION OF MAN. The changeful form, the visible appearance, is ever associated with the permanent invisible spirit; the one exists for the other, and is used by the other for expressing its thoughts and purposes. "Mortal and immortal" may be written of man. He comes forth and passes away: he abideth forever. Paradox is true, because the perishable and imperishable coexist and work one through the other.
III. IN THE PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST. Our Saviour was frail, subject to death; and yet the strong, unchangeable, deathless Son of God. The temporal and eternal were most mysteriously united in him, and the visible and perishable were the vehicle through which the unseen and eternal worked out our redemption. There is language by which men, if they will, can prove his simple humanity, and other language by which they can prove his true Divinity. It is the ignoring of this blending of the temporal and eternal which accounts for certain heresies and perversities of thought.
IV. IN THE PROGRESS OF REVELATION. The revelation which God is pleased to give of his will concerning our redemption is intended for the entire race, and adapted in matter and form to the progressive character of the race. It was not given once for all in concise abstract form; nor was its matter and form given to suit the later ages of the world only; it ran along the line of history from the very first, and was suited as time went on to men of diverse ideas and conditions. But from first to last the Divine imperishable truth was blended with the temporal history of men. The natural development of families and nations was the vehicle through or along which, as occasion required, the one unchangeable purpose gradually marked itself out into the clear light that shone in the face of Christ.
V. IN THE PROPHETIC REFERENCES TO THE MESSIAH. The duality of temporal and eternal thus seen to run through all things, becomes, therefore, a priori natural in any predictions concerning him whose throne is from everlasting to everlasting. That in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 we have reference to a mortal Solomon, who should build a perishable temple, sit on a visible throne, and hand down to a terminable though long succession of kings an earthly kingdom, is the interpretation required by subsequent facts. That the "seed" refers also to Christ the "Son of David," the house to a spiritual temple, the "throne" and "kingdom" to the absolutely everlasting dominion of Christ over the redeemed people of God, is the sense put on this and kindred passages by the New Testament (Psalms 72:17; Psalms 89:35-37; cf. Luke 1:31-33, Luke 1:68-79; Hebrews 1:5-13). That the two references should be couched in one form of expression is natural when we consider
(1) that the temporal and eternal are blended, as just seen, in one form of nature, in one human being, in the one Christ Jesus, and in the one historic revelation;
(2) that this harmonizes with the twofold sense of the prediction made to Abraham (Genesis 21:12; Genesis 22:17-19; cf. Romans 9:7-9; Acts 3:25; Galatians 3:26), and with the twofold meaning of our Lord's words in reference to "the end" (Matthew 24:9-14, Matthew 24:29-44). The human relationship, the human throne, the possible human frailty, and the human relative permanence, are the lower earthly vehicle by which the Divine and absolutely enduring are set forth and inaugurated.
1. God secures to all his truly faithful ones the realization of their highest and holiest ambitions, as surely as he secured to David the realization of his desire for a seed, and the completion of his life's work in the establishment of his throne; for he makes life here to issue in the glory, of the kingdom of Christ.
2. It behoves us to remember that there is an eternal element interwoven with common life, and to subordinate everything temporal to its action.
3. The fact that chosen instruments are used in working out eternal purposes does not exempt them from the frailties of their nature and the corrections necessary to their preservation for the service of God (2 Samuel 7:14).
4. The chastisement due to the literal son of David for sins of his own foreshadows dimly the spiritual fact that the great Son of David took upon himself the iniquities of us all, and experienced the "chastisement of our peace"
5. The strong and repeated assurances of the universality and permanence of Christ's reign should inspire us with calm confidence and untiring zeal.
6. Human fidelity in God's service is a condition of the progressive bringing into clearer view and nearer realization the glorious end for which all things consist.
The educational influence of God's great love.
In 2 Samuel 7:18-29 we have described, in broken sentences, the effect on the spirit of David of the marvellous loving kindness of God in having guaranteed unto him such a glorious completion of life's work, and the unspeakable honour of being associated in name and work with the Redeemer of the world. The real nature of a man is tested in seasons of great prosperity as well as in adversity. David bears the strain. Never in the past history of the world had God spoken so distinctly and emphatically to any of his people of the personal honour he would confer. In the effect of this on David we may see an illustration of the general educational influence of God's love on his people.
I. IT INDUCES INEXPRESSIBLE WONDER. When David had heard the strange words he at once went and "sat" before the Lord! The first impulse was to get near to the visible symbol of the Divine presence, and simply sit still in amazement. That silence held his tongue for a while seems indicated in the embarrassment (2 Samuel 7:20). What could a devout man do but muse and wonder at the largeness of the grace? There was a marvel in what God had done in the past (2 Samuel 7:18), in what was to be in the future, and in the ordination or law, תּוֹרָה, in respect of the man, or otherwise in the superhuman bearing towards one so unworthy (cf. Isaiah 4:1-8). This is the general effect of a recognition of God's love to us, whether seen in the unspeakable gift of Christ, in the greatness of his long suffering, in the tenderness of his pity, in the provision for our temporal and eternal good, in the use he makes of us in his service, or in the blessed inheritance promised in the future. There is a devotion of feeling which consists in a permanent silent wonder that God should have dealt so with us. This tones our spirit into quiet gentleness, and we can in some measure understand why seraphim and cherubim should be absorbed in wonder at his ways.
II. IT INDUCES DEEP HUMILITY. It was not because of any good in himself that all these things were done to David, but because God was pleased out of his own heart so to deal with him (2 Samuel 7:21). Nothing tends more to develop humility than a survey of the wonderful love of God. The contrast of our deserts with his grace bows the spirit down, not to abjectness and loss of heart, but to the tender feeling of self-depreciation and self-abnegation which ever becomes a sinful creature in the presence of the Eternal. Great grace bestowed is an educator in what most befits one who was lost but is now found (Psalms 115:1; Romans 3:27; 1 Corinthians 15:10; 1 John 3:1).
III. IT FEEDS THE SPIRIT OF ADORATION. The word "wherefore" (2 Samuel 7:22) seems to complete the silent reasoning which must have gone on in the mind of David for many a year. The general care of man (Psalms 8:1-9.), the heavens (Psalms 19:1-14.), and the terrible works of God among the nations (Psalms 48:4-7, Psalms 48:10, Psalms 48:11), had ever furnished occasion for adoration; but all this is surpassed by the great love wherewith he has now loved his servant, and in this lies the moral greatness which most of all wins the adoring love of the soul. It is a well-known psychological truth that the feelings are not under the direct control of the will, and especially not obedient to a bare command.]Nor are they developed in noblest form by mere externals. It is when the actual love of God, as seen in deeds done for us and blessings freely showered on us, is manifest to the eye of the soul, that true worship arises. The greatness of love draws forth the homage of the redeemed (Revelation 1:5, Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:9, Revelation 5:10).
IV. IT STRENGTHENS INTEREST IN OTHERS. Some who do not know what personal piety is imagine that it consists in selfish delight in one's own favoured condition—a continuous self-congratulation that we are snatched as brands from the burning. David's deep interest in others, as seen in 2 Samuel 7:23, 2 Samuel 7:24, establishes the reverse. The love we share in is a love embracing others, and it awakens and nourishes a joy in them and their happy lot. It is an unspeakable delight to a true Christian that a multitude that no man can number are the people of God, "redeemed" by the wondrous grace which amazes while it blesses himself.
V. IT LEADS TO EVER-INCREASING CONSECRATION. Such is the meaning of David in 2 Samuel 7:24-27. He surrenders his heart and life afresh to the one great purpose which has been graciously revealed. It is not mere acquiescence that so it should be, but intense desire, self-identification afresh with the work and ways of God. He wants to be used in the accomplishment of the great design. This was the secret of the Apostle Paul's ever-deepening consecration. The love of God to him and others was a constant subject of thought, and hence he was daily "constrained" to live for him who had died to make him what he was (2 Corinthians 5:14-16). The love of God contemplated and felt renders every yoke welcome and easy.
VI. IT DRAWS OUT A SPIRIT OF TRUSTFUL DEPENDENCE. To be the instrument of this working in the line of the great purpose required distinguished qualities, and a revelation of it (2 Samuel 7:27) very naturally made David sensible of the insufficiency of himself and successors, and called forth the prayer for a blessing on his house (2 Samuel 7:28, 2 Samuel 7:29). The blessing of God is necessary to man's successful working out of the Divine will; and the heart that appreciates the honour of being so employed will earnestly plead the promises in seeking the grace required.
ADDITIONAL NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS.
1. It is one of the sweetest joys of life granted by God when, in his providence, he gives intimation to parents that their immediate posterity are likely to take up the religious work they love, and carry it on towards the completion of God's will on earth (2 Samuel 7:12).
2. What parents need is that God would "set up," in positions of righteousness and true honour, their offspring, and "establish" whatever work or interest they may have in hand (2 Samuel 7:12).
3. To "build a house" for God is an unspeakable privilege (2 Samuel 7:13). It may be done variously:
(1) by rearing up a personal character of our own on the One Foundation (1 Peter 2:6), so that it may be a fit habitation of God through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19);
(2) by teaching the cardinal truths of the gospel among men, so that on the One Foundation (1 Corinthians 3:9-11) there may be reared a Christian Church, as is still often done by missionaries in heathen lands;
(3) by devoting money to the erection of a sanctuary where needed (Luke 7:5). A more noble use of wealth can scarcely be conceived. 4, God's purposes are unfolded and wrought out in human history with full prevision of the imperfections and sins of his people, and with providential provision for their correction (2 Samuel 7:14). Not one of the distinguished men who prepared the way for Christ was perfect. The Antitype alone is free from sin. It was in the occupying of a throne, not in the details of private conduct, that Solomon the son of David prefigured the true Son of David.
5. There are fundamental errors and failures in the lives of some men which disqualify them utterly from sharing in the highest and noblest work. Saul's obstinacy, self-will, and inability to rise to the conception of the purpose and scope of the theocracy, rendered it unfit that he should found the line by which the Christ should come (2 Samuel 7:15). Solomon's imperfections were those of another character, springing more from unwatchfulness against certain snares of his position. These imperfect workers suffer loss and shame, but the substantial part of their work abides (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
6. It is a great consolation to a Christian that God knows him (2 Samuel 7:20). He knows our unexpressed thoughts and feelings, our depth of love and gratitude, our sorrow over sin, our most secret motives, and the path we take. Our ease of mind in remembrance of this is one of the marks of true sonship and service.
7. A review of the gradual revelation of God's purposes will surely induce a profound conviction of his greatness and glory (2 Samuel 7:22). Men who study only the physical aspects of nature lose much. The moral universe is the grandest arena on which the power and blessedness of the Eternal shines forth.
8. It was ancient Israel's being chosen and used as the people of God (2 Samuel 7:23) which conferred on them the most enduring distinction. As a fact, Israel has done more than either Egypt, Greece, or Rome for the true elevation of mankind; for Israel was the means of bringing into universal operation the mighty renovating principles of the kingdom of God, which alone can secure the permanence of civilization, and also educate the higher nature of man for time and eternity. "Blessed is that people whose God is the Lord!"
9. The whole question of the final triumph of Christ rests on the word of God, "Thou, O Lord God, hast spoken it" (2 Samuel 7:29). Modern speculations are beside the mark. The first question covers all Have we historically the declaration of God? Then, if he has said a thing, it must be so. Difficulties are relative to man's ignorance and weakness, and have no place with the Eternal. Faith in God is a rational exercise of the human mind; it is not blind superstition.
HOMILIES BY B. DALE
2 Samuel 7:1, 2 Samuel 7:2
(1 Chronicles 17:1). (THE KING'S PALACE IN ZION.)
David's purpose to build a house for the Lord.
(References: 1 Kings 5:3; 1 Kings 6:12; 1 Kings 8:17-19; 1 Chronicles 22:7-10; 1 Chronicles 28:2-7; 1 Chronicles 29:1-3; 2 Chronicles 6:7-9.) The king's palace of cedar on Mount Zion had been completed. In the adjacent tabernacle or dwelling place of Jehovah (2 Samuel 7:6) the ark had found rest, and a regular order of public worship had been instituted. Surrounding enemies had been subdued, and there was at least a temporary cessation from war. Jerusalem was the civil, military, and ecclesiastical centre of the kingdom. And now another step in advance was taken. Whilst contemplating the lowly abode of the ark of the Lord in comparison with his own palace, the thought arose in David s mind of building a splendid and durable temple for the Name of the Lord God of Israel (1 Kings 8:17), a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and for the footstool of our God (1 Chronicles 28:2), "exceeding magnifical of fame and of glory throughout all countries" (1 Chronicles 22:5); and "when the king sat in his house" he intimated his wish (for it scarcely amounted to a distinct and definite resolution) to Nathan the prophet, doubtless in order to obtain his advice concerning its propriety and accomplishment. What followed was of the highest importance in relation to the permanence of his dynasty, the prosperity of his people, the worship of God, and the development of Messianic purposes. "The word of the Prophet Nathan and the thanksgiving of David mark the culmination of David's history" (Baumgarten). This chapter affords a glimpse into his innermost heart, and reveals the devotional feelings, patriotic desires, and lofty aspirations and hopes that dwelt therein. In him we here see an example of—
I. DEVOUT OCCUPATION IN THE RETIREMENT OF HOME. Such retirement, necessary for all, is not always spent wisely and well; but often in sensuous indulgence, frivolous amusement, self-adulation (Daniel 4:29, Daniel 4:30), envious discontent (1 Kings 21:4), or meditating secular and selfish schemes (Luke 11:17, Luke 11:18). The godly man not only "returns to bless his household," but also:
1. Meditates on the best things: the Name of the Lord, his greatness and goodness, his works, his ways, his Word, his worship, and the welfare of men. He considers "the days of old," and "communes with his own heart" (Psalms 77:5, Psalms 77:6) of his benefits, obligations, condition, and prospects (Psalms 55:17; Matthew 6:5; John 1:48).
2. Talks of these things in a right manner.
3. Cultivates social intercourse with good men," the excellent, in whom is all his delight" (Psalms 16:3; Psalms 119:63). He prefers their society to any other, befriends them, and makes them his friends (Luke 16:9). Nor is there any greater treasure on earth than a faithful friend, such as David had in Nathan. The manner in which men spend their leisure hours is a sure indication of their real character.
II. ARDENT GRATITUDE TO GOD FOR SUCCESS in his undertakings, labours, conflicts (2 Samuel 7:1), and whatever rest and prosperity he enjoys.
1. These he ascribes, not to his own skill or power (Deuteronomy 7:17), but to the Divine hand; and, in considering what God "hath done for his soul" (Psalms 66:16):
2. He is deeply affected by his exceeding kindness, so condescending, undeserved, and inexpressible (2 Samuel 7:8, 2 Samuel 7:9, 2 Samuel 7:20)! While he muses the fire burns (Psalms 39:3).
3. And he is constrained to testify his thankfulness in word and deed. "Those who stretch themselves upon beds of ivory (Amos 6:4-6), and were not grieved for the affliction of Joseph, though they had David's music had not David's spirit" (Matthew Henry). "Though the Prophet David was guilty of many of the most deadly sins, yet he was said to be a man after God's own heart, because he abounded more with thankfulness than any other that is mentioned in Holy Scripture" (Isaac Walton).
III. TENDER CONCERN FOR THE DIVINE HONOUR. "See now I dwell in a house of cedar," etc. The devout and grateful heart fuels:
1. That with the honour of God the house of God is intimately connected. No material fabric, however stately, can now possess the same significance or relative importance as the tabernacle or temple (1 Samuel 1:3, 1 Samuel 1:9). But wherever God's children meet for Divine worship and spiritual fellowship (thus constituting the true temple and Church), the place is "hallowed ground." Standing amidst other dwellings, the house of God is a constant witness for him; and, by its sacred associations, religious exercises, and the holy influences therein received and thence diffused, it greatly conduces to his glory, as well as to the good of men.
2. That it ought to correspond with its declared purpose, and the circumstances and abilities of those by whom it is erected and attended. All "temples made with hands" fall infinitely beneath the dignity of the Eternal (1 Kings 8:27; Acts 17:24); yet it is becoming that "strength and beauty should be in his sanctuary," that men should offer their best in his service (2 Samuel 24:24), and that, while they dwell in "celled houses," his house should not "lie waste" (Haggai 1:4).
3. That it is a duty and a privilege to employ the gifts bestowed by God for the improvement of his house and the promotion of his honour. When he has done much for us we should do much for him. "Four great means for administering the religion of Christ have been divinely appointed: the Book of God, the day of God, the worship of God, and the house of God. This last is for the sake of the former three. Without it they cannot be upheld. In the house of God the truth of God is proclaimed, the day of God is hallowed, and the worship of God is solemnized. All good gathers into and around God's house. 'I will make,' saith he, 'the places round about my hill a blessing.' There gather pious families. There arise schools for neglected children. There benevolent activities prevail. There spring up fountains of missionary liberality. And from humble sanctuaries in England, gospel light streams forth to distant regions of the earth—the wilds of Southern Africa, or the populous hives of Chinese idolatry" (Algernon Wells).
IV. HIGH ESTIMATION OF FRIENDLY COUNSEL. Unlike some successful and powerful men, who take counsel of their own hearts and despise the advice of others, David valued, sought, and received the advice of Nathan as the counsel of God himself. "The first great office of a friend is
(1) to try our thoughts by the measure of his judgment, and to taste the wholesomeness of our designs and purposes by the feelings of his heart. As this office of a good friend is to guard us against the imperfections of our own nature, and protect the world from the effects and ourselves from the responsibility of our folly, the next office of a friend is
(2) to protect us from the selfish and wilful and malicious part of our nature. A third great office of friendship is
(3) to awaken us and lift us up, and set us on nobler deeds. The fourth good office of a friend is
(4) to rally us when we are defeated or overtaken with adversity. And so much is the world alive to this office as to have chosen it out as the true test; it being one of our best proverbs that 'a friend in need is a friend indeed'" (E. Irving).—D.
2 Samuel 7:3
The Prophet Nathan.
(References: 2 Samuel 12:1, 2 Samuel 12:25; 1Ki 1:10, 1 Kings 1:22; 1Ki 4:5; 1 Chronicles 17:1; 1 Chronicles 29:29; 2Ch 9:29; 2 Chronicles 29:25; Zechariah 12:12.) This is the first mention of his name. He may have been trained by Samuel at Naioth, and become acquainted with David there; was now the confidential friend and spiritual adviser of the king; subsequently reproved him for his sin; gave him counsel concerning the accession of Solomon; aided him in the reorganization of public worship; and wrote annals of his reign. It was his vocation to interpret and announce the Divine mind to others (see 1 Samuel 4:1). "The calling of a prophet was that of a preacher or pastor with reference to the congregation as a whole and its individual members; but was distinct from our modern ideas with reference to the calling as thus explained in his drawing directly from Divine revelation. The prophets have been rightly called 'the conscience of the Israelitish state.' … They held intercourse with God by means of prayer. They questioned God (Habakkuk 2:1), and he answered; but they did not receive Divine disclosures until they had first occupied an attitude of waiting and praying" (Delitzsch; Oehler, 'Theology of the Old Testament;' Riehm).
1. All men, and especially those who are in authority, have need of wise and faithful counsel. The king himself is only a man; his position is apt to blind his judgment and corrupt his heart; whilst his responsibilities and the consequences of his actions are very great.
2. Even the wisest of counsellors are liable to err in judgment. (Job 32:9.) "All that is in thine heart go, do." But herein Nathan spoke "out of his own mind, and not by Divine revelation" (J.H. Michaelis). The prophet, like the king, was only a man (Acts 10:26), imperfect and fallible, and often mistaken, when giving counsel according to his natural judgment and first impressions, without seeking and obtaining the counsel of God. It is not said that he spoke by "the word of the Lord," as he did afterwards (2 Samuel 7:4). "Ofttimes our thoughts, although springing from motives of real religion, are not God's thoughts; and the lesson here conveyed is most important—not taking our own impressions, however earnestly and piously derived, as necessarily in accordance with the will of God, but testing them by his revealed Word" (Edersheim).
3. The errors of human judgment are rectified by Divine communications. Such communications have been actually made; and they are unspeakably precious. The prophet clearly distinguished them from his own thoughts, and had an inward assurance and overpowering conviction that he was the organ of God. It is the privilege of all Christians to be "taught of God," and "led by the Spirit;" but unless their convictions and impulses accord with the revealed Word, they must be rejected.
4. The Word of Divine revelation admits of no questioning or contradiction; but should be received "with meekness," uttered with simplicity and fidelity (Deuteronomy 12:32), and obeyed humbly, cheerfully, and fully. The prophet hesitated not to acknowledge his mistake, nor the king to lay aside his purpose in obedience to the will of the Lord (2 Samuel 7:17, 2 Samuel 7:18).—D.
2 Samuel 7:3
The Lord is with thee.
This brief and significant language has often been addressed to good men. And what can be more encouraging!
1. It describes an invaluable privilege. "Jehovah," the Eternal, the Unchangeable, the Faithful, the Covenant God of Israel, "is with thee;" not simply in his special presence, but also in his effectual grace, approving, directing, protecting, qualifying, helping, prospering thee. "I am with thee" (Genesis 26:24; Exodus 20:24).
2. It expresses a personal assurance. "With thee." Such assurance is given by the word of the prophet, the covenant of God, the argument of experience (2 Samuel 7:9; 1Sa 18:1-30 :32-37), and the conviction of the heart in the way of faith and, obedience.
3. It furnishes a powerful incitement to thanksgiving, prayer, conflict, labour, perseverance, hope (Haggai 2:4; 1 Corinthians 15:58). "Lo, I am with you always." The spiritual presence and fellowship of Christ are the secret of all spiritual strength and success.—D.
2 Samuel 7:4-11
(1 Chronicles 17:3-10). (ZION.)
A forbidden purpose.
"Shalt thou build me a house for me to dwell in?" On reflection, the prophet, perhaps, felt some misgiving as to the wisdom of the counsel he had given to the king; and (in prayer) the same night (before any steps could be taken to carry it into effect) he received a Divine communication which he faithfully announced. The chief significance of this communication lies in the promise it contained with respect to "the house of David." But it was primarily and directly a prohibition of the king's resolve. "Thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not build me a house to dwell in" (1 Chronicles 17:4). The purpose of a good man is often "broken off" (Job 17:11; Job 29:18); not always, however, because of the clearer knowledge of the mind of God vouchsafed to him, but more commonly because of the difficulty and opposition he meets with in seeking its accomplishment, and his inability to overcome them. Of the purpose of David (as illustrative of that of others) observe that --
I. ALTHOUGH FORBIDDEN IT WAS NOT ALTOGETHER DISAPPROVED. "Thou didst well that it was in thine heart" (1 Kings 8:18); spoken of:
1. The spirit, in which his purpose was formed—grateful devotion and sincere desire of honourmg God and benefiting men. This is always the chief thing "in the sight of God, who searches the heart."
2. And the object toward which it was directed. It was not in itself displeasing to God, but received his sanction (Deuteronomy 12:10, Deuteronomy 12:11; Deuteronomy 12:13). Yet:
3. How seldom is a human purpose, though in the main good, entirely unmingled with human imperfection! The language in which the purpose of David was forbidden seems to indicate that "his generous impulse was outrunning God's commandment, and that his ardour to serve was in some danger of forgetting his entire dependence on God, and of fancying that God would be the better for him" (A. Maclaren).
II. IT WAS NOT FORBIDDEN WITHOUT SUFFICIENT REASON (2 Samuel 7:7, 2 Samuel 7:8), viz.:
1. The dealings of God with his people in past time; showing that it was his pleasure that his dwelling place should be adapted to their unsettled condition; and that "a house of cedar" was not indispensable to his presence and blessing. He was satisfied to share their wanderings.
2. The absence of a Divine direction to build a permanent house. "It was not because of any negligence on the part of the former leaders of the people that they had not thought of erecting a temple" (Keil). Until the "word" should be spoken, no one might enter upon such an undertaking.
3. The unsuitableness of the present time—the still disturbed and warlike state of the kingdom (2 Samuel 7:11). "Inasmuch as these wars were necessary and inevitable, they were practical proofs that David's kingdom and government were not yet established; and therefore that the time for the building of the temple had not yet come, and the rest of peace was not yet secured."
4. The incongruity of his career with the nature and design of the building. An abode of peace should be erected by a man of peace. "Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars; thou shalt not build a house to my Name," etc, (1 Chronicles 22:8; 1 Chronicles 28:3; 1 Kings 5:3). "From whence could so sublime a precept descend, amidst a people constituted as the Jews were, unless from the Father of love and mercy?' (Milman). "War, however necessary it may be in certain circumstances for the kingdom of God, is only something accidental, the result of human corruption. The true nature of the kingdom of God is peace" (Hengstenberg). Still other reasons appear in what was promised to David (2 Samuel 7:11, 2 Samuel 7:12), without which the accomplishment of what he purposed in his heart was impossible.
III. IT WAS FORBIDDEN IN THE MOST GRACIOUS MANNER, (2 Samuel 7:8-11.) For God:
1. Assured him of the regard in which he was held by him. "David is here called God's servant, who is King of kings—the fairest flower in any king's crown, and highest title he can claim" (Guild).
2. Reminded him of the great things which he had already done for him; and which were an earnest of "still greater things than these" (Psalms 78:70-72).
3. Informed him of the safety and stability, the peace and prosperity, which (in continuance of his former mercies) he was about to grant to his people under his rule.
4. Promised to him rest from all his enemies, and an enduring dynasty (2 Samuel 1:1, 2 Samuel 1:2), "Jehovah telleth thee that Jehovah will make thee a house" (Psalms 132:11). What an abundant compensation was thus afforded for any disappointment that might be at first experienced! "Our own plans, though well intended, are often fit for nothing but to be laid aside to make way for the Lord's purposes respecting us, of which perhaps we had no conception" (Scott).
IV. IT WAS FORBIDDEN ONLY THAT IT MIGHT BE MORE EFFECTUALLY FULFILLED. (2 Samuel 7:12, 2 Samuel 7:13.) "'Thou shalt not build a house for me' (2 Samuel 7:5-7); but I, who have from the beginning till now glorified myself in thee and my people (2 Samuel 7:8-11), will build a house for thee (2 Samuel 7:11); and then thy son shall erect a house for me" (Thenius).
1. The purpose of man depends for its fulfilment upon the purpose of God.
2. The purpose which one man is unable to accomplish is often wrought out by another, who comes after him, under more favourable circumstances.
3. Although the former is not permitted to see the execution of his purpose, he may contribute greatly towards it, and does not go unrewarded.
4. Many a seeming failure is a real and glorious success; and "heaven is made for those who fail in this world."—D.
2 Samuel 7:9
A great name.
Among the great things which God did for David, he gave him a great name, like that of others, statesmen, warriors, kings, who, on account of their abilities, successes, power, and influence, were renowned "in the earth." "The fame of David went out into all lands" (1 Chronicles 14:17). "Glory consists in the honourable and widespread reputation of numerous and important services rendered to one's friends, his country, or the whole human race" (Cicero). It is:
1. A desired possession. The love of human esteem, praise, and honour is natural, universal, beneficial, though often perverted to unworthy ends, and not subordinated to the voice of conscience and of God. "That characteristic of man which is at once the most unworthy and the most exalted is his desire of glory. It is the last passion that becomes extinct in the heart of man. There is such a charm in glory that, whatever we connect with it, even death itself, we love it still" (Pascal). "Desire of glory is the last garment that even wise men lay aside" (O. Felltham).
2. A Divine gift. "And in thine hand it is to make great" (1 Chronicles 29:12). Although it necessitates, in most instances, strenuous human endeavour, it is never attained apart from or in opposition to the working of Divine providence; which in this, as in other things, is frequently mysterious, but always wise and just and good. How many strive after it in vain!
"Some sink outright;
O'er them, and o'er their names, the billows close
Tomorrow knows not they were ever born.
Others a short memorial leave behind,
Like a flag floating when the bark's engulf'd—
It floats a moment, and is seen no more:
One Caesar lives, a thousand are forgot."
(Young, 'Night Thoughts,' 8.)
3. A weighty responsibility. As it is given by God, so it should be ascribed to him and used for him, according to his will, not for selfish but beneficent ends (2 Samuel 5:12). Even when righteously gained, it is not always righteously maintained. Some of "the great men that are on the earth" have, by its abuse, fallen from their nest among the stars (Obadiah 1:4), like "Lucifer, son of the morning" (Isaiah 14:12).
4. An unsatisfying portion. In the midst of its enjoyment the soul craves something higher, and can find rest only in the approbation and fellowship of God (Psalms 4:6; Psalms 73:25; Psalms 119:57). It cannot impart inward peace; it endures but for a season, and then passes away. "Where are those rulers of the earth gone, with their guards, armies, and carriages, of whose departure the earth stands a witness unto the present day?" ('The Hitopadesa').
Of worldly fame is but a blast of wind,
That blows from diverse points, and shifts its name—
Shifting the point it blows from.
Shalt thou more
Live in the mouths of mankind, if thy flesh
Part shrivel'd from thee, than if thou hadst died
Before the coral and the pap were left;
Or ere some thousand years have past? and that
Is, to eternity compared, a space
Briefer than is the twinkling of an eye
To the heaven's slowest orb."
(1) A great name is not always a good name.
(2) A good name may be possessed, though a great name may be unattainable.
(3) To some men (like David) it is given to possess both.
(4) True greatness consists in Christ-like goodness (Matthew 20:25-28), and true glory in "the honour which cometh from God only" (John 5:44).—D.
2 Samuel 7:12
The prospect of death.
The view of earthly glory is apt to suggest, by contrast, the thought of its transitory duration, and no one can look forward to the days to come without having "the shadow of death" presented before his mind. Of its unavoidable approach, the message which David received, telling of his present prosperity and future prospects, reminded him. It is:
1. An event of inevitable occurrence. "What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death?" (Psalms 89:48). "The small and great are there" (Job 3:19). "The path of glory leads but to the grave."
"Death comes with irrespective feet,
And beats upon the door
That shuts the palace of the great,
The cabin of the poor."
2. An end of allotted time. "When thy days be fulfilled." There is "an appointed time to man upon earth" (Job 7:1; Job 14:5; Psalms 31:15), in which to pass his probation, form his character, and perform his work. Unknown to him, it is determined by God, and, however brief, it is sufficient for that purpose. Happy is he who therein "serves his own generation by the will of God" (Acts 13:36).
3. An exit from earthly cares, labours, conflicts, and sorrows. "Thou shalt sleep," and be at rest (Job 3:17; John 11:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:14); not necessarily in absolute unconsciousness and inactivity. Death is a "decease" (2 Peter 1:15), departure, exodus of the spirit from "this tabernacle" to an eternal home (2 Corinthians 5:1, 2 Corinthians 5:8).
4. An entrance into heavenly fellowship. "With thy fathers;" in the possession of conscious, personal, immortal life, of a common heritage in God, and happy communion with each other (2 Samuel 12:23; Psalms 16:11; Psalms 17:15). David's hope of this, indeed, was dim, in comparison with the Christian hope, as the morning twilight compared with the perfect day (2 Timothy 1:10; Matthew 8:11).
5. An enlargement of beneficent influence. "I will set up thy seed after thee," etc. He lives in his children; his words; his works; the manifold influences which he exerted on others, and which continue operating after his decease, and contribute to the building up of the temple and kingdom of God. His departure is even expedient and necessary in order to the activities of others;. and, instead of becoming extinct, his power for good is thereby extended and exalted. His name "liveth forevermore" (Ecclesiasticus 44:14).
6. An object of profitable contemplation. By meditating on it, especially in its moral and spiritual aspects, he learns to moderate earthly attachments, sanctify earthly relationships, to be humble in prosperity, patient in trial, and diligent in duty. "Thou must shortly die! O man, set thy house in order. There is a house of thy conscience, a house of thy body, a house of thy family, a house of eternity. All these must be set in order" (Christopher Sutton, 'Disce Mori'). Learn to die. Learn to live. Learn to pray.—D.
2 Samuel 7:12-16
(1 Chronicles 17:11-15). (JERUSALEM.)
The promise of an outlasting kingdom.
"And thy house and thy kingdom shall be permanent;
Thy throne shall be established forever."
(2 Samuel 7:16.)
1. The position of David was a very exalted one. He was the chosen earthly head of the theocracy, or kingdom of God; and on him rested the hope of its glorious consummation. He was the Lord's messiah—"the mediator through whom Jehovah dispensed help, safety, and blessing" (Riehm).
2. But was the hope of Israel to be completely realized in him? And were his dynasty and kingdom to be permanent, or to pass away, like others?
3. To these questions the promise now given furnished an adequate answer. David would be succeeded in the theocratic throne by his posterity, and his dynasty and kingdom would endure forever.
4. This promise, the great charter of the house of David, was "the foundation of all Messianic prophecies and hopes in the prophets concerning the completion of the kingdom of God, its revelations of grace and its blessings of salvation" (Erdmann). It was—
I. AN EXPRESSION OF ABOUNDING GRACE. The free, condescending, unspeakable favour of God toward David, this it was which so deeply affected him (2 Samuel 7:19-21). The good pleasure of the Lord had been shown in "the word of the Lord by Samuel," in David's exaltation to the throne after long suffering and trial (2 Samuel 7:8), and in his subsequent prosperity (2 Samuel 7:9); and it was further manifested in this great promise of continued grace to his house, "for a great while to come;" whereby his noblest aspirations would be fulfilled (2 Samuel 23:5), and through him and for his sake blessings would abound unto many. In like manner "the exceeding riches of his grace" are apparent in all the promises pertaining to eternal life and salvation, and the whole history of the progress of the kingdom of God from its commencement to its consummation. "The progress of God's kingdom, or of true religion, should be the progress of David's line, This point constituted the Messianic element in the prophecy. It limited the hopes of the world's redemption to David's line, as Jacob's prophecy had long ago limited it to the tribe of Judah" (P. Thomson).
II. AN ASSURANCE OF EXTRAORDINARY GOOD. To the view of David the future was, by means of the promise, lighted up with glory. He beheld:
1. The existence of the royal house, of which he was the founder, made sure by the Divine oath. "Jehovah telleth thee that Jehovah will build thee a house" (2 Samuel 7:11; Psalms 132:11; Psalms 89:3, Psalms 89:4). This was the general substance of the promise. "The royal office was elevated to the position of being the controlling and centralizing point of all the theocratic main elements of the national life."
2. The elevation of his posterity, and especially of one of his sons, to the royal dignity. "I will set up thy seed after thee" (2 Samuel 7:12; 1 Chronicles 17:11). "Behold, a son shall be born to thee … Solomon," etc. (1 Chronicles 22:9; 38:10; 1 Kings 5:5; 1 Kings 8:19).
3. The establishment of the kingdom in security, peace, and happiness, all enemies being subdued; "and I will establish his kingdom;" which was necessary to the fulfilment of David's purpose.
4. The erection of the temple and the dwelling of the Divine King in the midst of his people. "He shall build a house for my Name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom forever" (2 Samuel 7:13). "The building of the house here goes hand in hand with the eternity of the kingdom.… The essence of the temple consists in its being a symbol—an outward representation of the kingdom of God under Israel. The real import of our passage, then, is that henceforth the kingdom of David and the kingdom of God should be closely and inseparably linked together" (Hengstenberg, 'Christology'). "The idea of a number of descendants following one another (a line of kings) is evidently contained in the promise" (Keil); and in this sense David must have understood it. "The collective he (2 Samuel 7:13, 2 Samuel 7:14) includes in itself (like Genesis 3:15) the Son of David in the highest sense and the Founder of the true temple of God, which is his Church."
5. The relation of Father and son subsisting between God. and the theocratic king. "I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a son." Such was the relationship between Jehovah and Israel (Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 14:1; Deuteronomy 32:6; 1 Chronicles 29:10; Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 31:9; Hosea 11:1), and it would be made specially manifest in the head and representative of the chosen people. A son
(1) derives his being from his father, bears a close resemblance to him, stands near him, represents him, and shares his possessions;
(2) is an object of his tender affection, under his protecting care, and subject to his merciful discipline; and
(3) is bound to reciprocate his affection, to honour him, and obey. his commandments. The fatherly love of God is here more particularly presented to view; and "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth" (Hebrews 12:6). "If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him," etc. (2 Samuel 7:14).
6. The unchanging mercy of God, founded on this relation. "But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul," etc. (2 Samuel 7:15). If, indeed, the individual king should forsake the Lord, he would be "cast off forever" (1 Chronicles 28:9). "The contrast is that between the punishment of sin in individuals and the favour that remains permanently with the family, whereby the promise becomes an unconditional one" ('Christology'). The kingdom of God is a kingdom of righteousness.
7. The eternal duration of his dynasty and kingdom once more assured, with all the advantages of a government faithfully exercised according to the will of God. This was "the everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure;" and these were the "sure mercies of David" (Isaiah 55:3). "This revelation was an epoch making one for his inner life. It brought an entirely new element into his consciousness, which, as his psalms show, moved him powerfully. He received the promise of the perpetual ascendency of his tribe, of the establishment of his kingdom amid the changing of all earthly things" ('History of the Kingdom of God under the Old Testament'). "This promise, like that made to Abraham, has a twofold aspect. One points to David's natural posterity and temporal kingdom; the other to the Messiah and the kingdom of Jehovah, which respected the former only as types and pledges of the latter."
III. A FOUNDATION OF IMPERISHABLE HOPE. The promise was one of an eternal monarchy rather than directly of an eternal Monarch, "the King Messiah;" but it could only be completely fulfilled in such a Person, "since the eternity of a purely human kingdom is inconceivable;" and it became the basis of a hope of "his power and coming," which, notwithstanding repeated failure and disappointment, was to be renewed with undying strength. David was himself the centre of the Messianic idea and hope. "He regarded himself as the messiah of God; although, through his experience and words, he was only a means for representing the future One before his coming" (Delitzsch, 'Messianic Prophecies'). And, amidst the glorious prospect which the promise presented before him, he perceived (all the more clearly because of his own conscious infirmities) the ideal theocratic monarch; "a kingly image, in which all that the present manifests is far surpassed, and the kingship of David and Solomon seen in typical perfection". The promise "refers neither only to Solomon nor only to Christ; nor has it a twofold application; but it is a covenant promise, which, extending along the whole line (of David's posterity), culminates in the Son of David, and in all its fulness applies only to him" (Edersheim). "Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end," etc. (Isaiah 9:6; Luk 1:1-80 :82, Luke 1:33; Acts 2:25-36).
1. Men's views of the glory of the future age are naturally and necessarily formed according to the facts and ideas with which they are already familiar.
2. The Word of God, in promise and prophecy (being the gradual unfolding of his eternal purpose), had a larger signification than was understood by those to whom it at first came (1 Peter 1:11). "Divine prophecies are of the nature of their Author, with whom a thousand years are but as one day; and therefore are not fulfilled punctually at once, but have a springing and germinant accomplishment throughout many ages, though the height or fulness of them may refer to one age" (Bacon, 'Advancement of Learning').
3. The promises of God are faithful and true; his covenant is a sure foundation of hope amidst human failures and earthly changes (Psalms 89:1-37; 2 Corinthians 1:20; Hebrews 6:18).
4. The hope of humanity is in "the Root and the Offspring of David, and the Bright and Morning Star!" (Revelation 22:16).—D.
2 Samuel 7:16
Glimpses of the King Messiah.
Looked at in the light of the development of the Divine purpose, rather than of the conscious knowledge of the time,
(1) the royal office of David and Solomon (in its typical significance), and
(2) the promises and prophecies uttered more or less directly in connection therewith, especially as recorded in the last words of David (2 Samuel 23:1-39.) and in the Psalms, clearly pointed to the coming of an extraordinary, theocratic, Divine King. They indicate that he would be:
1. The Anointed of Jehovah. His Servant, chosen and beloved (verse 8; Psalms 5:3; Acts 4:27; Acts 10:28). Psalms 89:1-52; 'The faithfulness of the Lord.'
"Once thou spakest in vision to thy beloved, and saidst:
I have laid help upon a mighty one,
I have exalted one chosen out of the people.
I have found David my servant,
With my holy oil have I anointed him."
(Psalms 89:19, Psalms 89:20.)
2. The Son of David "according to the flesh" (Psalms 89:12; Acts 2:29-31; Acts 13:22-23).
"Jehovah hath sworn unto David
In truth that which he will not recall:
Of the fruit of thy body
Do I appoint a possessor of thy throne."
3. The Son of God. (Psalms 89:14; Psalms 16:10; Luke L 35; Acts 4:25-27; Romans 1:4.) Psalms 2:1-12; 'The triumph of the Lord's Anointed.'
"Jehovah saith unto me: Thou art my Son:
I have this day begotten thee."
"He shall cry unto me: My Father art thou,
My God, and the Rock of my salvation!
Also I will make him my Firstborn,
Highest of the kings of the earth."
(Psalms 89:26, Psalms 89:27.)
"In the Old Testament the relation between father and son denotes the deepest. intimacy of love; and love is perfected in unity of nature, in the communication to the son of all that the father hath. 'The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand' (John 3:35). Sonship, therefore, includes the government of the world" (Keil).
4. The King of righteousness and peace; Prophet and Priest; the Conqueror of all opposing powers (through conflict and suffering); the Saviour and Benefactor of those who trust in him; the supreme Lord (verse 13; Psalms 22:1-31.; Psalms 40:6 Psalms 40:1 Matthew 22:45; Hebrews 1:8).
"The oracle of Jehovah unto my Lord:
Sit thou at my right hand
Until I make thine enemies thy footstool."
"Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of thy kingdom."
5. The Builder of the temple. (Verse 13; Zechariah 6:12,Zechariah 6:13; John 1:14; John 2:19; John 14:23; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 1:20-23; Ephesians 2:20-22; 1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 21:1-3.)
"Thou hast received gifts among men,
Yea, even the rebellious, that the Lord Jehovah might dwell among them."
6. The Possessor of universal dominion. (1 Samuel 2:10; 2 Samuel 22:44; Psalms 22:27.)
"He shall have dominion from sea to sea,
And from the river to the ends of the earth."
7. The King who should reign forever. (Verse 16; Psalms 61:6, Psalms 61:7; Psalms 89:36, Psalms 89:37.)
"His Name shall endure forever;
His Name shall be continued as long as the sun."
"An allegory may serve to illustrate the way in which the Old Testament proclamation of salvation unfolds itself. The Old Testament in relation to the day of the New Testament is night. In this night there rise in opposite directions two stars of promise. The one describes its fall from above downwards; it is the promise of Jehovah who is about to come [Psalms 96:13; Psalms 98:9]. The other describes its path from below upwards; it is the hope which rests on the seed of David, the prophecy of the Son of David, Which at the outset assumes a thoroughly human and merely earthly character. These two stars meet at last, they blend together in one star; the night vanishes, and it is day. This one star is Jesus Christ, Jehovah and the Son of David in one Person; the King of Israel and at the same time the Redeemer of the world; in one word, the God-Man" (Delitzsch, in Psalms 72:1-20.).—D.
2 Samuel 7:18-24
(1 Chronicles 17:16-22). (THE TABERNACLE ON ZION.)
Thanksgiving and praise.
The duty of rendering thanksgiving and praise to God is seldom disputed, though its performance is often neglected. It is beneficial to the offerer himself, as well as to others. The conduct and language of David, on receiving the Divine communication here recorded, famish an admirable example of the spirit in which "the sacrifice of thanksgiving" should be presented.
I. DEEP HUMILITY before the presence of God. "Then went King David in" from his palace of cedar to the lowly tent (the palace of the Divine King of Israel), "and sat" on the ground in a lowly posture, according to Eastern custom (expressive of his lowly state of mind), "before Jehovah," the symbol of whose presence stood veiled before him. "And (after devout thought on the communication)he said, Who am I, O Lord God?" etc. (2 Samuel 7:18). Although in comparison with other men he "might have whereof to glory," yet in the conscious presence of God he had a profound sense of his weakness, insignificance, dependence, and unworthiness (Genesis 32:10; Job 42:5, Job 42:6; Isaiah 57:15; Eph 3:8; 1 Peter 5:5, 1 Peter 5:6). The proud heart is never a thankful heart. The poorer we are in our own estimation the more disposed we are to "praise the Lord for his goodness." Humility is the first step of a ladder whose top reaches heaven (Matthew 5:3).
II. CALM REFLECTION on his benefits. "And this was yet a small thing in thy sight, O Lord God," etc. "And this [which thou hast graciously promised concerning my house] is the law [established order or decree] of [or pertaining to a mortal] man, O Lord God!" (2 Samuel 7:19). "Is this the law of one who is a mere man created from the dust as I am, that I should be elevated to such a glorious altitude as this?" (Wordsworth). "Thou hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree" (1 Chronicles 17:17). An expression of humble astonishment. The more he pondered it in his heart, the more he was humbled, surprised, and filled with thankfulness. We have not less cause for gratitude (Psalms 8:4, Psa 8:5; 1 Corinthians 2:9, 1 Corinthians 2:10). "Forget not all his benefits," past, present, or to come. We are apt to forget them, and therefore should contemplate them frequently, enumerate them one by one, and endeavour to estimate their exceeding worth. Meditation is like a lens, by which the rays of the sun are collected into a focus and produce so intense a heat that coals of fire are kindled by it (Psalms 39:3; Psalms 48:9; Psalms 77:11, Psalms 77:12; Luke 2:19).
III. INTENSE CONVICTION of his claims. "And what can David say more unto thee? for thou knowest thy servant, O Lord God!" (2 Samuel 7:20). The great things which had been promised, the obligations under which they laid him, and his conviction and impression thereof, were all indescribable. Words failed him; and he could only appeal to Omniscience to witness the sincerity and depth of his grateful feeling (John 21:17). Every additional benefit conferred upon us increases the claims of our Divine Benefactor on our love and devotion. His mercies are "new every morning" (Lamentations 3:23); and the debt we owe is ever accumulating.
"How can I repay to Jehovah
All his benefits toward me?"
IV. FERVENT GRATITUDE for his grace. "For thy Word's sake;" in fulfilment of thy purpose and promise formerly expressed, "and according to thine own heart," of thy spontaneous, sovereign, unmerited favour, "hast thou done all these great things to make thy servant know them," for his consolation and encouragement (2 Samuel 7:21). It is the disinterested love and abounding grace of God, displayed in his gifts, that more than anything else touches the heart and constrains it to fervent gratitude. "To my eye the workings of a heart oppressed and overflowing with gratitude are painted stronger in this prayer than I ever observed them in any other instance. It is easy to see that his heart was wholly possessed with a subject which he did not know how to quit, because he did not know how to do justice to the inestimable blessings poured down upon himself and promised to his posterity; much less to the infinite bounty of his Benefactor" (Delany).
V. LOWLY ADORATION of his perfections. "Wherefore thou art great, O Lord God," etc. (2 Samuel 7:22). The greatness of Jehovah, the incomparable One, the only God, was manifested in his dealings with his servant, as in the whole history of Israel, "according to all that we have heard with our ears." David had the most exalted views of his character as the All-wise and All-powerful, the Condescending, Faithful, Gracious, Merciful, and Just (1 Samuel 2:2; Psalms 113:6); and he delighted in the contemplation and praise of his infinite excellence. God himself is greater than anything he has done or promised to do; but by means of his doings and revelations we are enabled to know him and draw nigh to him in worship and adoration, wherein the soul finds its noblest activity, rest, and joy.
VI. GENEROUS SYMPATHY with his people. "And what one nation in the earth is like thy people," etc. (2 Samuel 7:23, 2 Samuel 7:24)? An incomparable people!
1. Redeemed by mighty acts.
2. Designed for a special purpose—to be his possession or property, and to "show forth his praise."
3. Established in covenant relationship forever (2 Samuel 7:16; Revelation 21:3, Revelation 21:7). David "glorified God" in them; and in doing so he showed his love for them, his sympathy and identity with them (2 Samuel 5:12). His thanksgiving and praise were large hearted and disinterested. The selfish heart (like the proud heart) is never a thankful heart. The more we esteem others the more numerous the occasions we find for gratitude to God, and the more we abound therein,
VII. ENTIRE CONSECRATION to his service and glory. He avowed himself the servant of God (2 Samuel 7:21), freely and gladly surrendered his will to him, sought what he promised, and desired that his Name might be "magnified forever" (2 Samuel 7:26). This is the essence of the sacrifice of praise. "Father, glorify thy Name" (John 12:28; Philippians 1:20).
"As of their will, the angels unto thee
Tender meet sacrifice, circling thy throne
With loud hosannas; so of theirs be done
By saintly men on earth."
(Dante, 'Purg.,' 11.)
2 Samuel 7:25-29
(1 Chronicles 17:23-27). (ZION.)
Promise and prayer.
"Do as thou hast said" (2 Samuel 7:25).
1. God has spoken to men. "His greatness is unsearchable" (2 Samuel 7:22; Psalms 145:3); nevertheless, he has surely spoken to them in his Word (2 Samuel 7:4; Hebrews 1:1).
2. He has spoken in the way of promise (2 Samuel 7:28). A large portion of Divine revelation consists of promises, "exceeding great and precious" (2 Peter 1:4), pertaining to the life that now is, and that which is to come.
3. And as God has spoken to men in the way of promise, so they should speak to him in the way of prayer (1Sa 1:9; 1 Samuel 8:6; 1 Samuel 14:16, 1 Samuel 14:36).
"A breath that fleets beyond this iron world,
And touches him who made it."
I. PROMISE SUPERSEDES NOT THE NECESSITY OF PRAYER; inasmuch as the latter is commonly the expressed or implied condition of its fulfilment. As a bank note must be presented that we may obtain the gold which it represents, so the Divine promise must be sought in prayer that we may receive the good of which it gives assurance. A child does not refrain from asking his father for what he wants because it has been promised, but rather asks him all the more. David prayed for what he had been promised. "I will yet for this be inquired of," etc. (Ezekiel 36:37). "Ask, and it shall be given you" (Matthew 7:7; Psalms 50:15; Zechariah 10:1). "The prayer that prevails is a reflected promise."
II. PROMISE CONFIRMS THE DUTY OF PRAYER; by indicating the will of God concerning us. To neglect the condition of receiving the blessing, or to refuse to comply with it, is to despise the blessing itself. Why such a condition?
1. To give to God the honour which is his due.
2. To teach a spirit of dependence.
3. To promote personal and direct intercourse with God.
4. To call into exercise the noblest principles of our nature.
5. To incite cooperation towards the attainment of what is promised.
6. To make its bestowment more beneficial to the recipient.
Some things may be beneficial in connection with prayer that would not be so without it.
III. PROMISE AUTHORIZES THE PRIVILEGE OF PRAYER. What greater privilege can there be than that of "making known our requests unto God"? But who, without his promise, could venture to believe that these requests would be heard; especially when made for the "great things" contained in it? Even now, how doubtful and timid are we in claiming the privilege! The promise gives encouragement and confidence; and should, therefore, be pondered in the heart, as it was by David; who was thereby emboldened (Authorized Version, "found in his heart ") "to pray this prayer" (2 Samuel 7:27). "Thy words are truth" (2 Samuel 7:28). "When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, O Lord, will I seek" (Psalms 27:8; Psalms 119:49; Genesis 32:12).
IV. PROMISE TEACHES THE MATTER OF PRAYER. "We know not what we should pray for as we ought," and are apt, in this respect, to "ask amiss." But the promises constitute an invaluable, directory of prayer," teaching us:
1. The things for which we ought to ask, both temporal and spiritual.
2. Their relative importance.
3. Their application to others as well as to ourselves (2 Samuel 7:25, 2 Samuel 7:29).
4. Their chief design (2 Samuel 7:26).
"If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you," etc. (John 15:7; Revelation 22:20). "Pause over each promise, and let your faith in it blossom into a prayer for it. This will be the true, responsive reading of the sacred Scriptures, wherein there shall be not simply the answering of voice to voice as among men, but the responding of your heart to God. Happy are they in whose souls there is thus a continual recurring 'Amen' to the benedictions of the Lord" (W.M. Taylor).
V. PROMISE INCITES THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER.
1. A reverent regard for God.
2. A lowly estimate of ourselves.
3. Fervent desire for the blessing of God.
4. Childlike confidence in his Word.
5. Unreserved submission to his will.
6. Patience and perseverance.
"Wait on the Lord," etc. (Psalms 27:14; Luke 11:1-13; Luke 18:1). "Prayer is nothing else but the language of faith, love, and hope: of faith, a believing of God's being and bounty, that he is willing and able to succour us; of love, which directeth us to the prime Fountain of all the good we have and would have, and to the end and glory of God, and regulateth all our choices by it, and to those means which conduce to the enjoying of God; and of hope, which is a desirous expectation of the promised blessing" (T. Manton, 'Works,' 18.72).
VI. PROMISE ENSURES THE ANSWER OF PRAYER; not always in the immediate and conscious experience of the petitioner, but always at the proper time (Daniel 10:12), the delay being needful and beneficial; not always in the literal terms of the promise, but often in a more spiritual and glorious manner; and never wholly withheld (1 John 5:14, 1 John 5:15). "He is faithful that promised" (Hebrews 10:23). "The promises of God are the free expressions of his goodness and beneficence; but then their meaning has in it something of that Divine attribute. Nothing that he says can be in the mere narrow proportions of man. The words are necessarily those used by man, but the meaning is that of God; and we may be confident that what will be given in fulfilment of them will be according to the magnitude of the Divine goodness; as far, at least, as the faculties of the recipients will admit, and these can be enlarged. The Divine goodness being transcendently above all other goodness, the gifts of it will be according to its own manner, and not limited to the human import of the words, as if merely preserving the bare truth of the words. So that he will surprise his servants, as they find the earthly terms of his promises translated as it were into celestial language, when they arrive in his presence and have those promises acknowledged" (John Foster, 'Literary Remains').—D.
2 Samuel 7:27
A prayer found in the heart.
When a prayer such as David's is found in the heart, it is:
1. Found in the right place. If only on the tongue it is not really found at all Its proper abode is the heart; yet it is not always found there, even when renewed, as the heart must be for its dwelling.
2. Possessed of priceless worth; in contrast with other things that are often found in the heart (Matthew 15:19). A rare flower among weeds, a fountain in the desert, a treasure in poverty, a friend in need! "I have no earthly friend," said one; "but I have a praying heart."
3. Derived from a Divine source. It is not indigenous. Its orion is in "the Father of lights," from whom comes "every good gift and every perfect boon;" its production is due to the teaching of his Word and the operation of his Spirit (Zechariah 12:10).
4. Destined for a proper use. Not to be neglected, repressed, or restrained (Job 15:4); but appreciated, guarded, cherished, freely and fully "poured out" at the feet of the Giver, that he may be glorified.—D.
HOMILIES BY G. WOOD
2 Samuel 7:1, 2 Samuel 7:2
David's desire to build a temple.
After the conquest of Jebus by David and his appointment of the spot to be the capital of the united kingdom of which he was now the ruler, it soon became his earnest purpose to bring thither the long-neglected ark of the covenant, that the city might be the sacred as well as the civil metropolis. This purpose was at length fulfilled. The ark was settled on Zion in a tent prepared for it, and a daily service established in connection with it. But the king was not long satisfied with what he had done. Larger and more generous thoughts took possession of his mind, and stirred within him eager desire.
I. WHAT WAS THE KING'S DESIRE? To erect a solid, permanent building, of suitable magnificence—a temple—in which the ark should be placed, and where the services of worship should be constantly maintained. Most likely he contemplated what was afterwards effected, the reunion on one spot of the ark and the altars; and the presentation of the daily and other sacrifices and offerings at their proper place before the symbol of the Divine presence—the revival, in fact, of the Mosaic ritual under circumstances and with accompaniments adapted to the existing condition of the nation. The purpose was good and tended to good. It was time that the irregularity and negligence which had prevailed should come to an end, and the requirements of the Law should be obeyed. It was fitting that the unity of the people should be fully symbolized, expressed, and promoted by such a united worship as the Law enjoined. It was also suitable to the more settled state which, under David, the people had reached, that a solid fixed building should supersede the tent which was adapted to the time of wandering and unsettlement; and, as the nation's resources had increased, it was right that the building to be reared should be proportionately costly.
II. HOW IT ORIGINATED.
1. A time of peace favoured it. (2 Samuel 7:1.) Giving the king leisure for thought as to how he could further promote the nation's welfare; awakening gratitude; affording means and opportunity. Times of war are greatly unfavourable to such enterprises, forcing minds and hearts into other channels, and swallowing up the resources which might otherwise be expended on them.
2. The solidity, beauty, and comforts of David's own house suggested it. "I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains." David had known for years what it was to have no settled abode, but to wander about the land, taking refuge in woods and caves; and afterwards he was much away from home, engaged in wars. Lately he had built himself a handsome palace, and now for a time he was able to sit quietly in it and meditate; and as he did so, it one day struck him that his abode was superior to that of the ark of God, and the desire was kindled to put an end to the incongruity. Not every one would have been thus moved. How differently the rich man of whom our Lord speaks in Luke 12:16, et seq; "thought within himself"! And how many prosperous people there are, professing to have given themselves to God, who, as they increase in wealth and enjoy comfort and luxury, never turn a thought towards God's house or cause, or inquire what they can do for them! They reflect much, it may be, on the question how best to invest their increasing gains; but it never seems to occur to them that the most suitable and profitable investment might be in the cause of religion or charity. A more fervent piety would suggest such thoughts. Gratitude for the abundance bestowed on them; the contrast presented (see Haggai 1:4) between their residences and their churches, between what they spend on their establishments and, what they spend in the promotion of the kingdom of God; the witness which their mansions and surroundings bear to the ample means with which God has endowed thrum—the large trust he has committed to them;—all would be fruitful of thoughts and emotions to which they are now strangers, and of a style of giving which they have never allowed themselves. It was David's piety more than the surrounding circumstances that originated his generous purpose.
III. HOW IT WAS TESTED. As to its propriety and probable acceptance with God. He consulted his friend and adviser, Nathan the prophet: The more important the steps we contemplate, the more needful is it, before we are openly and irrevocably committed to them, that we should ascertain how they appear to others, especially to the wisest and best whom we know. Feeling is not a sufficient guide, not even pious feeling; and our own judgment may not be of the soundest. Another may put the matter in a new light, which shall convince ourselves that, however good our motives, our purpose is not wise or not practicable. We cannot directly consult a prophet, but we may find good and enlightened and trustworthy men who will be glad to aid us to a fight conclusion. And what joy it gives to Christian ministers to be consulted by such as come saying, "God has prospered me, I have done well for myself and my family, and I should like to do something proportionate for my God and Saviour: advise me as to how I may best fulfil my desire"! Such applicants are few and far between; such a style of thought and purpose is rare. But it ought not to be. It is a sin and shame that God's work should be hindered for want of money in a thriving community which can spend freely in all other directions.
IV. HOW IT WAS REGARDED BY NATHAN. He approved and encouraged the desire, assuring David of the Divine approval add cooperation (Luke 12:3). He spoke on the impulse of the moment, with the feeling natural to a pious Israelite and prophet, thankful that his king should cherish such a design. He did well, but had he paused and proposed to "sleep upon" the matter, he would have done better, as appeared next day. We should ever be ready to encourage others in good thoughts and purposes, yet in important matters it is well to take time to consider before we advise as to definite proposals.
V. HOW IT WAS REGARDED BY GOD. The proposal was approved, commended, rewarded, and—rejected. The refusal was softened by the terms in which it was conveyed, and the representations and promises by which it was accompanied (Luke 12:4-17; 2 Chronicles 6:8); declaring that it was well that it was in his heart to build a house for God's Name, although it was a matter of indifference to the Most High what sort of dwelling places men provided for him; reminding David of what he had done for him; assuring him that he would continue to favour the nation, that he would build a house for him as he had sought to build one for himself, and that his son should fulfil the father's desire, and the throne should continue in his family forever. This was the greatest promise David had received, greater than he himself could then understand, for it looked forward to the everlasting kingdom of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. But though his knowledge of its purport was imperfect, his pain at the rejection of his proposal was more than soothed; his heart was filled with adoring gratitude and joy.
VI. HOW ITS SINCERITY WAS PROVED. If he might not do all he desired, he would do all he might and could. He, therefore, prepared plans for the building, accumulated materials for its erection, and urged the work on his son Solomon and the chief men of the nation. An example for us if, setting our hearts on some particular work for God, our purpose is frustrated. Let the diverted energies be employed all the more in such services as are within our reach. A contrast to the conduct of many who, disappointed in reference to some cherished desire (e.g. to become clergymen or missionaries), allow their zeal to decline to the common level, if it do not pass away altogether.
1. Christian piety will kindle earnest desires to do the greatest possible work for God. Such desires should be cherished in subordination to the Divine will. For though approved of God, they may be denied (Proverbs 10:24 notwithstanding). If denied, we should be content, assured of the perfect wisdom and goodness of the purpose of God which has frustrated ours, and that for us and others he has some better thing in store than we had thought of. Though denied, our desire may be fulfilled (as David's by Solomon). Whether denied or gratified, goal desires (such as are really good, and not mere idle wishes) are always valuable, for what they indicate in ourselves, for the Divine approval they elicit, for their influence on ourselves, and their influence on others (as David's on his successor and on the chiefs of the nation).
2. The desire to build or aid in building a house for the worship of God is good.
3. We may all assist in the erection and adornment of a nobler temple than that which David sought to build. "The house of God is the Church of the living God" (1 Timothy 3:15), and all who labour for the conversion and spiritual improvement of men are helping in the glorious work of building and adorning this spiritual house. Let all Christian workers realize the dignity and glory of their work. Let us all ask ourselves whether we have any heart for it, are doing anything towards it; whether we are capable of doing anything in it that shall be acceptable to God, having first given our own selves to him, and received his Spirit.—G.W.
2 Samuel 7:12-16
David's everlasting kingdom.
These words relate, first, to Solomon; then to successive generations of David's posterity; and, finally, to the Christ. They promise that David's son should be God's son, and should build the house for God which David had desired to build. They promise also that the rule over Israel should continue in the line of David's posterity, and that his house and kingdom should be established forever. They were partly fulfilled in the long continuance of the reign of David's descendants. They receive their most ample and splendid fulfilment in the eternal kingdom of the greatest Son of David, our Lord and Saviour—a fulfilment beyond all that David could ask or think.
I. THE GREAT KING.
1. Is David's son. He is much more than this; but he is this. A man is at the head of God's kingdom!
2. Is God's Son. (2 Samuel 7:14; comp. Hebrews 1:5 and Romans 1:3, Romans 1:4.) Both as to his human and his Divine natures, Jesus Christ is the Son of God as none other—"the only begotten Son of God." This shows his greatness, and accounts for his triumphs. The Eternal and Almighty Father recognizes and proclaims him as his Son; declares by the miracles accompanying the personal mission of Jesus, by his Word, Spirit, providence, through the ages, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him."
3. And this illustrious person is King. King over God's people, his true Israel; King of men; "King of kings, Lord of lords;" King of angels, King over all things in heaven and earth. The kingdom of David has expanded till it extends over the universe.
II. THE PERPETUITY OF HIS REIGN. It shall be literally eternal. "He shall reign forever and ever" (Revelation 11:15). It is surely more than a coincidence that a system of dominion over men, originating in a Man who had sprung from the reduced family of David, and was accepted by many of his fellow Jews as the Son of David, the Messiah foretold by the prophets—a system proclaimed at the first as the kingdom of God—should have taken root in the world, have spread so widely and lasted so long; that it should have proved to be the system in and through which especially the best influences of Heaven operate, and the divinest principles rule the hearts and lives of those who receive it; and that it should today be more extensively prevalent than ever, and that amongst the most enlightened and powerful nations (to whose enlightenment and power it has largely contributed), and giving promise of becoming the ruling power everywhere. It is a veritable kingdom, uniting all who belong to it as one "holy nation" which acknowledges Jesus of Nazareth as its King, and submits to his rule. It has continued nearly nineteen centuries, and gives no sign of decay. In all this the Christian recognizes the fulfilment of the promise made to David and repeated so frequently afterwards by the prophets; and through his faith in that promise he anticipates the everlasting duration of the reign of Christ, the eternity of the King, and the eternity of his reign. We are sure that he must reign forever; and our assurance rests on:
1. The promises of God. The "God who cannot lie," and who has power to fulfil all his Word, and subdue all that opposes.
2. The nature of the kingdom. "A kingdom which cannot be moved" (Hebrews 12:28). It is spiritual, and cannot be put down by the material forces which destroy other reigns. It is the reign of Divine truth, righteousness, and love; and we cannot doubt but that these will triumph and be perpetuated.
3. The nature of the King. "The First, and the Last, and the Living One," who, though he "was dead," is "alive forevermore" (Revelation 1:17, Revelation 1:18, Revised Version). This King literally "lives forever." He is Divine as well as human. His reign is the reign of the Almighty God, which cannot be destroyed.
4. Past experience. The kingdom of Jesus Christ has survived in spite of all opposition. All possible hostile powers have done their utmost, and have failed. Christianity has outlived many kingdoms, which to human appearance promised to survive it. It has been assailed by brute force in a variety of forms, and by the forces of intellectual subtlety, of Political power, and of spiritual error, and it has conquered. It has seemed to be seriously endangered by the folly and wickedness of its professed friends, but still it survives and flourishes. In a word, the prince of this world has used all arts and energies at his command to crush the power of Christ, but in vain. "He that sitteth in the heavens laughs" at all that opposes his Son, saying, "Yet have I set my King on my holy hill of Zion" (Psalms 2:4, Psalms 2:6). And in the everlasting future this kingdom will continue. A great change is, indeed, predicted in 1 Corinthians 15:24. But as the kingdom of the Son is the kingdom of the Father, so the kingdom of the Father will still be that of the Son. Let, then, all the loyal subjects of Christ cast away fear for his kingdom, whatever forms opposition to it may take, and however formidable they may appear. And let all be concerned to be his loyal subjects.
III. THE GREAT WORK HE WOULD EFFECT. "He shall build a house for my Name" (1 Corinthians 15:13). The words may be taken as applicable not only to the temple which Solomon built, but to the nobler structure which our Lord is rearing, of which he is the chief Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4-6)—"the temple of the living God" (2 Corinthians 6:16), built of "living stones" quickened and consecrated by the Holy Spirit—"the habitation of God through the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:20-22). From age to age the work of erecting this spiritual temple goes on in the conversion of men to Christ, and their addition to his Church; and, when completed, the building will be for the everlasting honour of the Builder. May we all have a place in it!—G.W.
2 Samuel 7:18
Meditation before the Lord.
David, with a heart filled with wonder and gratitude by the message from heaven communicated to him by Nathan, "went in and sat before the Lord," and poured forth his thoughts and feelings in the words which follow. He probably went into the tent in which he had placed the ark, and there meditated and prayed. But the phrase, "before the Lord," is very frequently employed with out any reference to the ark, the tabernacle, or the temple. God is everywhere, and every where we may place ourselves as in his special presence, and with acceptance and profit offer him our thoughts and worship; and we do well often to imitate David in this respect.
I. THE CONDITIONS FAVOURABLE, AND INDEED ESSENTIAL, TO RIGHT THOUGHT AND WORSHIP WHICH ARE FOUND IN THE FELT PRESENCE OF GOD.
1. The exclusion of the world and its influences. "Before the Lord," the world, with its gains, pleasures, opinions, applause, or disapproval, vanishes from view, or appears as nothing; and thus we are delivered from its blinding and perverting influence.
2. Intense consciousness of God. He is for the time our All. His character, works, relation to us, dealings with us, claims upon us, judgment respecting us, stand forth glorious and impressive.
3. Intense consciousness of ourselves, our real nature, relationships, responsibilities to God and man. In the light of the Divine presence these things appear quite otherwise than when we regard only the material and the human.
4. Greater susceptibility to Divine influences, and receptivity of Divine gifts. Our hearts are prepared to receive more of the Holy Spirit; and we do receive more.
II. THE SPIRITUAL PROFIT THUS SECURED.
1. Fuller and truer knowledge. "In thy light shall we see light" (Psalms 36:9), which includes knowledge and much besides. "Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end" (Psalms 73:17). In the presence of God we obtain deeper insight into his nature and character, understand better his plans and methods. Our thoughts of him are enlarged and quickened. And in knowing him we come to know ourselves; his greatness reveals our littleness; his holiness, our sinfulness; and his fatherly love and redeeming grace, the true worth and dignity of our souls. Coming to him, as the disciples to Christ, to tell him what we have been doing and teaching, the poverty and imperfections of our lives become manifest to us. In his presence, too, we learn the relative values of holiness and sin, time and eternity, this world and the next.
2. Richer and deeper emotions and affections. Penitence and humility, gratitude and love, confidence and hope, peace and joy, are all nourished best in the presence of God. Coming to him to confess our sins and failures, we shall, as we look into his face, be inspired with new and more hopeful resolve. Bringing our cares and fears to him, as Hezekiah the letter of Sennacherib (Isaiah 37:14), we shall be relieved of them, and gain new courage and patience.
3. Ever better worship. Which will naturally spring from an enriched and spiritual life. Worship which is not offered "before the Lord" is not worship at all; and the more his presence is felt the worthier will our worship be.
4. Ever growing power to live according to our convictions and resolutions. "Before the Lord," his children grow brave and strong to do and endure. His eye felt to be upon them, they act nobly; his love realized by them, their hearts are filled with a love mighty to serve him and their brethren, and to conquer the evil powers. Finally: The measure of our disposition to go before God for converse with him, instruction, stimulus, consolation, etc; is the measure of our actual piety. We lose much of the highest happiness and profit through negligence in this respect. All that occupies our minds and moves our hearts becomes sanctified and elevated as we go aside and bring it "before the Lord." On the other hand, the greatest attention to religious observances which are not, through faith and love, done in the presence of God, is worthless, dishonouring to God, and useless, yea, worse than useless, to the worshipper.—G.W.
2 Samuel 7:18, 2 Samuel 7:19
Effects of God's goodness on the heart.
(Suitable for a birthday or the new year.) David, having retired into the presence of God, pours out before him the feelings of his heart, in view of what God had done for him, and what he had just promised to do.
I. THE MERCIES CONTEMPLATED.
1. Past leading. "Thou hast brought me hitherto." How much this included in David's case! How much in the case of every one of us! Each should recall in God's presence the particulars of his own life. Life itself, reason, health, preservation, supply of wants, home surroundings and comforts, the love of parents, etc; education, advancement in life, deliverances from perils and sicknesses, honours, the advantages of living in a country civilized, free, Christian; the Word and ordinances of God, connection with his Church and ministers, and all that has flowed therefrom—the life of God in the soul, pardon, peace, hope, the Spirit of adoption, love to God and men, access to God, the communion of saints, growth in grace, victory over temptations, opportunity and will to do good, success in Christian labours, support in troubles and benefit from them. Also the blessings of one's "house"—wife, children, good children especially, and their happiness. It is an endless task to remember and recount all the mercies of God; but the attempt is always salutary.
2. Promises as to the future. "This was yet a small thing in thy sight, but thou hast spoken also of thy servants house for a great while to come." Astonished and grateful as David was in view of his past experience of God's goodness, the promises he had now received respecting the perpetuation of his kingdom into the distant future still more affected him We also have "given unto us exceeding great and precious promises," stretching onward into the eternal future. The kindness of God in the past is but "a small thing." Even his spiritual gifts, great as they are, and the necessary preparation for the eternal, are but a slight foretaste and pledge of the exaltation, perfection, glory, and bliss which be will bestow upon his children in increasing abundance forever and ever.
II. THEIR GIVER. The contemplation of our history and prospects will bare a beneficial or injurious effect as we do or do not recognize God as the Giver of all. Some men regard themselves as the architects of their own fortunes, and are correspondingly filled with self-satisfaction. David ascribed all to God; and we ought to be like him in this. For if we have done much for ourselves, the power, opportunity, and will to do so came from him; if friends have greatly aided us, these also were God's gifts. In spiritual things it is especially obvious that "by the grace of God" we are what we are.
III. THEIR RECEIVER. "Who am I," etc.? The thought of David's insignificance and that of his family rendered the Divine goodness to him more conspicuous and impressive. So we shall more duly estimate the goodness of God to us, if we think rightly of ourselves; and a due impression of the greatness of his goodness will lead us to a just estimate of ourselves. At every step of our review of the past and anticipation of the future shall we be reminded of the many exhibitions of our own unworthiness. "Who am I?"—a frail and insignificant creature, a sinner, a great and persistent sinner; at best, a very imperfect Christian; proved to be such by innumerable instances—that I should be so favoured now, and should have such hopes of everlasting blessing set before me?
IV. THE EMOTIONS AWAKENED BY THEM.
1. Astonishment. At the Divine goodness, sovereign, free, unbounded, condescending. At the return made, which would appear incredible were it not for the sure testimony of memory and consciousness.
2. Gratitude and love. Expressed in praise and self-consecration (Romans 12:1).
3. Humility. The mercies of God revealing the more our unworthiness. The perception of his hand in our lives making our own part in the good they have contained seem insignificant. "Not unto us," etc. (Psalms 115:1). "Who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?" (1 Corinthians 4:7).
4. Benevolence. His loving kindness producing loving kindness in our hearts, as we contemplate it; and prompting to a return of benefits, which, as they cannot be conferred on God himself, we bestow on his representatives. "Be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love" (Ephesians 5:1, Ephesians 5:2, Revised Version). "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another" (1 John 4:11).—G.W.
2 Samuel 7:20
Unutterable thoughts and feelings known to God.
God's knowledge of the heart, which is a terror to evil men who think upon it, is often a joy to his servants. "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee" (John 21:17). So David, with his heart too full for adequate utterance, finds satisfaction in the thought that God knew what his thoughts and feelings were.
I. THE FELT INADEQUACY OF LANGUAGE TO EXPRESS THE DEEPEST THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS OF THE GODLY SOUL. In our ordinary condition we feel not this difficulty. Our expressions are more likely to go beyond our thoughts and feelings, especially when we use forms of devotion prepared by others. But when the soul is deeply stirred, as David's at this time, we struggle in vain to express fully what is within. It is thus with
1. Our sense of the value of God's gifts. Christ, God's "unspeakable Gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15). Salvation. Everlasting life. Gifts of God associated with these which are from time to time bestowed—special help in temptation, comfort in trouble, guidance in perplexities as to truth or duty, etc.
2. Our sense of the love which bestows them. We can only say, "How great is thy goodness!" "How excellent is thy loving kindness!" "God so loved the world;" "The love of Christ, which passeth knowledge" (Psalms 31:19; Psalms 36:7; John 3:16; Ephesians 3:19). Or, as David (2 Samuel 7:22), "Thou art great, O Lord God; for there is none like unto thee."
3. The emotions excited by them. Our gratitude, affection, penitence, humility, confidence, joy ("unspeakable," 1 Peter 1:8), longing for fuller experience of them ("groanings which cannot be uttered," Romans 8:26), anticipations of their perfect enjoyment (2 Corinthians 5:2-4). In our times of intense devotion we feel how utterly impossible it is fully to express what is in our hearts.
II. THE SATISFACTION WHICH ARISES FROM GOD'S PERFECT KNOWLEDGE OF US. "What can David say more unto thee?" I cannot express what I feel; and I need not labour to do so, "For thou, Lord God, knowest thy servant." It is the same thought which St. Paul expresses, when, speaking of the unutterable groanings with which the Holy Spirit intercedes in the Christian soul, he says, "He that searcheth the heart knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit" (Romans 8:27). God knows much more about us than our words express; is not dependent for his knowledge of us on our own account of ourselves. As we cannot by any words conceal from him the evil which is in us, so our deficiencies of expression will not hinder his discernment of the good. Even earthly parents see the meaning which their children try to express in stammering words and broken sentences; how much more does the heavenly Father, who is not at all dependent for his knowledge of us on our words, see beyond the poor utterances of his children, into their hearts! This is
(1) a comfort under the consciousness of imperfect and unworthy utterance in our addresses to God; and
(2) a reason for not labouring too much to express ourselves fully and worthily.
But it is not a reason for either
(1) declining to speak to God at all,—David did not actually sink into silence because he felt that he could not adequately express himself, and that God knew him (see what follows); or
(2) accustoming ourselves to careless expression before him.
(1) the endeavour to speak aright aids right thought and feeling, these grow in the endeavour to utter them;
(2) in family and social worship our language aids or hinders others; and
(3) we should ever offer to God our best, poor as we may feel it to be. And we may indefinitely improve both in thought and expression by the careful employment of the helps presented in Holy Scripture and uninspired devotional books. Christian poets, too, may much assist us to find suitable, though it may be still inadequate, utterance for our deepest thoughts and emotions.
1. David's emotions on this occasion are at once an example and a reproach to us. For the gifts and promises of God to us, if not greater than those to him, are greater than his understanding of them could be. They stand out to us in the light which streams from Jesus Christ, unfolding into all the precious revelations and assurances of the gospel, and all the happy experiences which the Holy Spirit produces. Yet how seldom are we so affected as to feel language too poor for the expression of the wonder, love, and gratitude which we feel!
2. How sad to be utterly insensible to the goodness of God and the greatness of his gifts to us!—G.W.
2 Samuel 7:21
God's works and God's heart and words.
David looks on those great things which God had promised him as if already accomplished, so great confidence had he in the power and faithfulness of the Promiser; and, conscious that they were due to no worthiness or power of his own, he acknowledges that all originated in the heart of God and were simply in fulfilment of his word, by which they had become known to himself. For the will and the work and the word he praises God.
I. GOD DOES GREAT THINGS ON BEHALF OF HIS PEOPLE. The works of creation are great and according to his own heart, originating in himself, and on a scale proportionate to his own greatness. So with the works of his providence. But we will apply the words to redemption. The works included in this are indeed great. They are on a scale of grandeur worthy of God.
1. The methods employed are great. The Incarnation—the union of God and man in one Person. The display of the glory of God in the earthly life of Christ, and at his death, resurrection, and ascension. His exaltation to be "Lord of all." The descent and operations of the Holy Spirit.
2. The work effected on behalf of man is great. The atonement especially, and all involved in it. The conquest over sin and Satan and death. The opening of the way to God and heaven.
3. The work wrought in and towards men is great.
(1) In respect to each believer. Illumination, regeneration, pardon, peace, holiness, perfection, glory everlasting, together with the special guidance and government of God's providence tending to and issuing in these great results.
(2) In respect to the multitude redeemed and saved.
(3) In respect to the final deliverance and exaltation with the Church of the whole creation (Romans 8:19-22; Ephesians 1:10).
II. GOD DOES THESE GREAT THINGS "ACCORDING TO HIS OWN HEART."
1. They spring from his heart. They are done spontaneously, of his own free grace and will "his own good pleasure." Not at the prompting of others, for none other could have conceived them. Not under a sense of obligation, for we had no claim upon him, except that our sin and misery appealed to his compassion. They originated in the Divine mind, sprang from the Divine love.
2. They befit his heart. They bear the stamp of the Divine nature; are worthy of his infinite wisdom, righteousness, benevolence, and power; are the grandest display of them. "It became him," etc. (Hebrews 2:10).
"All thy ways
Are worthy of thyself—Divine;
But the bright glories of thy grace
Beyond thine other wonders shine."
III. GOD DOES THESE GREAT THINGS IN FULFILMENT OF HIS OWN WORD. "For thy Word's sake."
1. He announces them by his Word. "To make thy servant know them." The things which God has done and will do he makes known. It is thus they become available to each and all to whom the Word is communicated. For the knowledge is the chief part of the means by which salvation is wrought. "The gospel … is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Romans 1:16; see also Romans 10:13, Romans 10:14; 1Co 1:17, 1 Corinthians 1:18, 1 Corinthians 1:23; Jas 1:18; 1 Peter 1:22, 1 Peter 1:23). Thus also we are assured of the completion of the work of redemption. For by the promises our God lays himself under obligation to perfect the salvation of all believerses It is, therefore, a great privilege to know these great things which God works.
2. He accomplishes them according to his Word. He cannot do otherwise. He "cannot lie" (Titus 1:2). "He abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself" (2 Timothy 2:13). Moreover, "what he hath promised, he is able also to perform" (Romans 4:21). Now that he has given his Word, "for his Word's sake" if there were no other reason, he will do "all these great things."
1. Let us, like David, adore and praise our God for his wondrous works, and for making them known to us. How glorious he appears in these works! Let us ascribe glory to him.
2. Let believers rest assured of the complete accomplishment of the work of their own redemption. They have the Word and the heart of God, and his actual works for them and in them, to give them assurance.
3. Let us fear, lest we should fail, through negligence and unbelief, to appropriate the redemption so wondrously wrought for us, notwithstanding our knowledge of it. (See Hebrews 2:1-4.)—G.W.
2 Samuel 7:22
God surpassingly great and ever the same.
"Wherefore," because thou doest these great things, extending on through the ages, and because thou canst and dost foresee and predict them, "thou art" manifestly "great" thyself, surpassing all others; the very God our fathers worshipped and have told us of. David's knowledge of God becomes to a greater degree personal insight and conviction through the new revelation with which he is favoured. It is well when living conviction as to God is wrought through experience of his kindness rather than his severity.
I. THE SURPASSING GREATNESS OF GOD.
1. God is great.
(1) In his nature. Infinite in all his perfections. Great, not only in power and knowledge, but in righteousness and love. "His greatness is unsearchable" (Psalms 145:3).
(2) In his operations. In these his greatness is exercised and displayed. In his works of creation, preservation, redemption, and government, we see how great he is. David saw it in his dealings towards himself and his posterity. In the nature of his plans and purposes; in his ability to rule a free world through successive ages, so as to effect their accomplishment; and in the power to predict and promise the result with certainty, God appears unspeakably great. Thus prophecy as well as creative energy manifests the greatness of God, both in the Divine plan itself—a grand scheme of justice and love stretching from the beginning to the end of time, and on throughout eternity—and in the revelation of it to man.
2. God is great beyond all others. "There is none like unto thee, neither is there any God beside thee." He has no equal, none that approaches him in majesty.
(1) No creature. All are at an infinite distance beneath him. He has made some creatures to resemble him in a measure in their intelligence, goodness, and position over other creatures; but their resemblance is like that of the image of the sun in a dewdrop to the sun itself. Whatever his creatures may be, they and their capacities are derived and dependent; he is underived and independent ("from everlasting"); their powers are very limited, his unbounded; none of them can create or give life; he is the "Fountain of life" (Psalms 36:9); they are mutable, he immutable; they mortal, he "only hath immortality" (1 Timothy 6:16).
(2) No god. David would think of the divinities worshipped by the peoples around; we may think of all the objects of worship in idolatrous nations, ancient and modern. Regarding them as they exist in the minds of men, producing certain effects upon them, how utterly unlike our God! We feel it almost profane to compare them with him. But in reality they are nonentities, "vanities," as they are so frequently called in Holy Scripture. There is no God beside our God.
II. HIS IDENTITY WITH THE GOD MADE KNOWN TO US FROM FORMER TIMES. "According to all that we have heard with our ears" (comp. Psalms 78:3, Psalms 78:4). David recognizes that the God who was so wondrously and graciously revealing himself to him was the same God whom he had been taught to revere and trust on account of the great things he had done for Israel in former days. The form of manifestation was different; the things done were different; but there were the same Divine perfections apparent, the same care for the people whom he had chosen. It was a joy to the king to discern that Jehovah, the God of the fathers, was communicating with him; and that what he was doing and promising corresponded with what he had heard of him. The revelation which God has given of himself in Christ differs in many respects from the old revelations; the operations of God under the new covenant differ from those under the old. But as we come into living communion with God in Christ, and become ourselves the subjects of his grace; as also we learn the great things which God has done and is doing under the gospel, and the promises he makes to those who receive it;—we too shall rejoice to discern that our God is the same as was worshipped by the faithful of old, and all through the ages—Jehovah, the living God, still righteous and merciful and almighty; still doing wonders of power and grace; and doing them on a vastly wider scale, no longer chiefly in Israel, but amongst all nations. One God unites all generations, is to unite all peoples. The God of our fathers is our God, and our experience of him corresponds with theirs. Thus the records of his revelations and proceedings in all the past become available for instruction, and the encouragement of faith and hope, in the present and the future.
From the whole subject let us learn:
1. To rejoice in and praise God. It is matter for just thankfulness that we have a God so great and glorious to worship and confide in, One who lives and works evermore, and is throughout all ages the same God.
2. To expect great things from One so great, for ourselves and the whole Church. He "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power which worketh in us" (Ephesians 3:20); and which has ever wrought among and on behalf of his people "according to all that we have heard with our ears."
3. To realize conscious communion with the saints of all ages. And so with all saints in earth and heaven.
4. To abjure tile folly, sin, and peril of declining the friendship of this great Being, and living in enmity with him.—G.W.
2 Samuel 7:23, 2 Samuel 7:24
The blessedness of God's people.
The thought of the greatness of God, in contrast with other objects of worship, naturally leads to that of the happiness of the people to whom he has revealed himself, and on whose behalf he has shown his greatness by his works. Israel was thus blessed above all other nations; Christians inherit the same blessedness with large increase. The people of God are distinguished above all others by—
I. THEIR REDEMPTION. (2 Samuel 7:23.)
1. The nature of it. Israel was redeemed from bondage in Egypt, and afterwards from the Canaanite "nations and their gods." A wonderful and happy deliverance. Christians are the subjects of a higher redemption. They are delivered from sin, from a bondage more cruel and degrading than that of Egypt;, They are redeemed "from all iniquity" (Titus 2:14), "from this present evil world" (Galatians 1:4); "from their vain manner of life handed down from their fathers" (1 Peter 1:18, Revised Version). They are redeemed from the consequences of sin. They have "redemption, even the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:14); they are redeemed "from the curse of the Law" (Galatians 3:13); from the power of the devil, and so from the power and the dread of death (Hebrews 2:14, Hebrews 2:15); they await "the redemption of their body" (Romans 8:23); they are delivered "from the wrath to come" (1 Thessalonians 1:10). Such are some of the statements of Scripture respecting the "redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24).
2. The manner of it. The deliverance from Egypt was effected by marvels of Divine power. God "went" forth to their rescue, doing "great things and terrible," in which the people themselves had and could have no part. In the destruction of the Canaanitish peoples they did take part, but their deliverances were by the power of God as really as their redemption from Egypt. For the spiritual and eternal redemption God has interposed in ways yet more marvellous. By wonders of love and righteousness and power combined, he delivers men from sin and death and hell. "He sent his Son to be the Propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). "We have redemption through his blood" (Ephesians 1:7); and so the saints on earth and those in heaven unite in praise of him who, by his blood, washed them from their sins, and redeemed them to God (Revelation 1:5; Revelation 5:9). Mere power could not effect this redemption.
(1) God must, in redeeming men, "declare his righteousness.; that he might be just," as well as "the Justifier" (Romans 3:26); and this is effected by the death of Jesus, "the Just for the unjust" (1 Peter 3:18).
(2) Men are to be delivered from sin by moral suasion; and this also is effected by the manifestation at once of the evil of sin, and the greatness of the Divine love, in the sacrifice of Christ. Thus the great redemptive act is the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus. But this is rendered effectual in the experience of men by
(3) the power of the Holy Spirit, revealing to the heart the gospel of redemption, which then becomes "the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16). To have thus realized redemption is the greatest blessedness and honour, and those who have this experience are the true "Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16).
3. The glory which this Redemption brings to the Redeemer. "God went to redeem,.; and to make him a Name." This aspect of the deliverance of Israel is not unfrequently presented in Holy Writ (see Exodus 9:16; Isaiah 63:12, Isaiah 63:14). Similarly, the Christian redemption is said to be "to the praise of the glory of his grace" (Ephesians 1:6, Ephesians 1:12; Ephesians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 4:15). It is not that, like some ambitious human hero, he cares for a great name for his own sake; but by his Name he is known, and men are drawn to him and saved (see John 17:26). In like manner, our Lord is said to have acquired through his humiliation and obedience unto death "a Name which is above every name," even "the Name of Jesus," and this also" to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11).
II. THE RELATION ESTABLISHED BETWEEN THEM AND GOD. (2 Samuel 7:24.) This also distinguishes them above all others. They are constituted the people of God; he becomes their God. It is for this purpose they are redeemed. This representation of the relation between God and his people appears first in a promise made to Abraham (Genesis 17:7, Genesis 17:8), is repeated in promises given through Moses (Exodus 6:7, etc.), is adopted by David here, reappears in the prophets (e.g. Jeremiah 31:33), is applied in the New Testament to Christians (2 Corinthians 6:16, etc.), and is finally used in a description of the perfect blessedness of the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:3). It comprehends all that the most enlightened and holy can desire.
1. They are constituted the people of God. Thus to Israel it is said by Moses, "Thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth" (Deuteronomy 14:2; see also Deuteronomy 26:18). St. Peter employs similar language to describe the position of Christians (1 Peter 2:9); and St. Paul says (Titus 2:14) that our Lord "gave himself for us, that he might … purify unto himself a peculiar people ['a people for his own possession,' Revised Version]." The representation includes:
(1) Ownership. They are his by right of creation and of purchase. "I gave Egypt for thy ransom" (Isaiah 43:3); "Ye are not your own; for ye are bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:19, 1 Corinthians 6:20).
(2) Appropriation. God takes possession of the people who are his; in the case of Christians, by his Spirit.
(4) Homage, including trust, love, worship (while other peoples worship other gods, the people of God worship him), and obedience.
(5) Glorification. They "show forth his praise" (Isaiah 43:21; 1 Peter 2:9). They promote his kingdom.
2. He is their God. All that men expect from their God he is to his people, and far more. He is theirs by covenant and promise. He gives himself to them. He exercises authority over them. They enjoy his love, his presence, the employment of his power to teach and guide, to purify, to comfort, to chastise, to protect, to employ, to perfect, to honour, to save.
3. The relation is eternal. "Forever." This is true in a sense of the relation between Israel and God. Although no longer a nation, they still are used to witness for him as no other people; and by their inspired men, and especially by him who is of them "according to the flesh," they have become the chief religious teachers and benefactors of mankind. And the day is coming when they will accept their Messiah, and, "with the fulness of the Gentiles," form one people of God. The real, spiritual Israel of all ages and lands are God's, and he is theirs forever and ever.
1. Happy are the people thus favoured by the Most High! He confers on them greater honour and blessing than on any others. This is true of Israel; of any nation who have the Word and ordinances of God amongst them; of the visible Church of Christ; and emphatically of the true spiritual Church. The distinction and glory become more marked as the reality of what is included in the title, "people of God" increases. To have a Divine revelation is a great privilege; but greater to receive and be renewed by it, and thus be heirs of all its promises.
2. Be concerned to be one of the true people of God, who have Jehovah for their God forever.
3. Take heed to live in a manner becoming your relation to him whom you acknowledge as your God. (See Leviticus 19:1-37; passim.) The people of a God of holiness and love should be distinguished by these qualities. Only thus can they prove themselves to be his. Only such people are his in any lastingly happy sense. Would that it were possible to point to every Christian Church, and challenge the world to produce any communities equal to them in all that is pure, righteous, and benevolent!—G.W.
2 Samuel 7:25
God's promises and our prayers.
"Do as thou hast said." The words are used by David of the promises given to him respecting himself and his house. They are applicable to all the promises.
I. THEY FURNISH A GUIDE TO OUR PRAYERS. What God has said shows us what we should ask. His promises indicate:
1. The kind of blessings which we should most earnestly seek. The promises of God—those given us in Christ especially—assure us of temporal good so far as is needful; but relate chiefly to spiritual and eternal blessings. The "good things" of Matthew 7:11 are interpreted for us by Luke 11:13 to be mainly "the Holy Spirit," which comprehends all good for our spirits, all the best things for time and eternity. While, therefore, we may pray for things temporal with moderated and submissive desire, we should most earnestly and constantly pray for things spiritual. In praying according to what God "has said," we are guided by infinite wisdom and love; we are asking "according to his will" (1 John 5:14). To permit ourselves to be prompted in prayer by our own worldly, carnal inclinations, is to turn our worship into sin, and to ask for evil instead of good.
2. The degree of these blessings which we should seek. The promises of God encourage us to open our mouths wide for him to fill (Psalms 81:10). They are without limit in extent and duration of blessing. Let us not limit ourselves in our desires, nor limit in our thoughts the bounty or power of God (Psalms 78:41). What he "has said" includes all we can need, but no more than we need for our highest blessedness; let us not be content with less. Let us study the promises, stretch our minds to grasp them, and then turn them into prayer; and, certain that our thoughts have not attained to the full extent of their meaning, let us yield ourselves to the influences of the Holy Spirit, that he may intercede within and "for us with groanings which cannot be uttered," but which "he that searcheth the hearts" can interpret and respond to (Romans 8:26, Romans 8:27).
II. THEY FURNISH AN ALL-POWERFUL PLEA IN OUR PRAYERS. "Do as thou hast said" is an appeal to the faithfulness and kindness of him to whom we pray. "Thou canst not break thy word ('Thy words be true,' Luke 11:28); thou art too kind to trifle with those who confide in it. For thy Name's sake, therefore, fulfil thy promises."
III. THEY ASSURE US OF A FAVOURABLE ANSWER TO OUR PRAYERS. When our prayers are according to the Divine promises, we should be absolutely certain of their success. For:
1. God is able to do as he has said.
2. He is most willing. His promises spring from his love to us, and express what he is most desirous of conferring upon us, and which only our indifference, unwillingness, unbelief, and consequent unfitness prevent our receiving.
3. His word binds him. "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or bath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" (Numbers 23:19).
4. He has given confirmations of his promises and pledges for their fulfilment, especially in the gift of his Son (2 Corinthians 1:20; Romans 8:32). Therefore "let us ask in faith, nothing doubting" (James 1:6, Revised Version). Were it not for what he has said, we might reasonably hesitate to ask for such great things as we are taught to pray for; but, having his word, there is no room for hesitation (Luke 11:27). However conscious of sinfulness and unworthiness, we may and should "come boldly unto the throne of grace" (Hebrews 4:16; also Hebrews 10:19, Hebrews 10:22).
Let us, then:
1. Familiarize ourselves with the promises of God, that we may pray with understanding and largeness of heart, and with confidence, importunity, and perseverance.
2. Use the promises when we pray, whether for ourselves, our families, our country, the Church, or the world.
3. Abandon whatever would turn the words, "Do as thou hast said," into a fearful imprecation. For think of what God has said as to what he will do with the impenitent, the unbelieving, the disobedient, the unforgiving, etc; even if they offer prayers to him (see e.g. Matthew 6:12, Matthew 6:14, Matthew 6:15).—G.W.
2 Samuel 7:26
God's Name magnified in his people.
Any name of God is magnified when it is made to appear great in the eyes of his intelligent creatures, and they esteem and declare it great. This is done when he himself adds to the significance of the name by yet more glorious works or revelations; and when they come to larger conceptions of its significance, and consequently use the name with greater fulness of meaning. Thus as "the sons of God" watched the various stages of creation, the name of "Creator" would acquire greater significance and glory. The name "Jehovah of hosts" would become more glorious as the hosts themselves in the heavens and on earth grew more numerous. But David here assumes that additional glory to this great name of God might and would arise from his relation to Israel; that to say, "Jehovah of hosts is the God over Israel," would be to add lustre to the name. And rightly, for his Name has been magnified by what he did amongst and for that people, by the revelations of himself which he gave them, and by the results in their national history, in the character and deeds of many of them, and in the history of the world. He made through them such manifestations of his greatness and goodness, righteousness and mercy, as befitted himself; and for which vast multitudes have magnified and do magnify him in their thoughts and thanksgivings. Until the Christ came, no name of God was more illustrious than this, "Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel." In fact, the coming of Christ and all that has grown out of it was included in that name. Hence another name of God greater still, "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," and "the God and Father of Christ's people." Yea, the whole Name of God, his whole character, all the terms and declarations by which he is made known, is magnified by what he has said and done in Christ. The great threefold name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is as never before declared and glorified in the work of salvation.
I. HOW GOD'S NAME IS MAGNIFIED IN AND BY HIS PEOPLE. This is effected by:
1. The work wrought for them.
"'Twas great to speak a world from nought;
'Twas greater to redeem."
2. The revelations made to them. In the Person, teaching, miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus; and by the teaching of the Holy Spirit through the evangelists and apostles. In these God is manifested more fully and clearly than by all his works besides. Never before did his Name appear so great and glorious.
3. The work wrought in them. The regeneration and sanctification of souls is a more interesting and illustrious display of Divine power than the creation of suns and stars, and reveals more of the Divine nature. The spiritual beauty and glory thus produced surpass all the beauty and glory of the natural world, and in them more of God appears. In "the fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22) God is magnified more than in all other products of his power.
4. The works done by them. The witness they bear for God by their worship and teaching, and sometimes their sufferings as confessors and martyrs; their godly and loving endeavours for the good of others; the courage and self-sacrifice, faith and patience, with which many of them labour for the spread of the gospel; and the good thus effected;—all magnify, the Name of God, from whom all proceed, and to the fulfilment of whose gracious purposes all conduce. The changes wrought by the labours of Christians—the whole influence and results of Christianity, notwithstanding all drawbacks (serious as these are), are of such a nature and magnitude as to exalt the Name of God more than anything else in the world.
5. The condition they at length attain. Their ultimate moral and spiritual perfection, their perfect happiness, their vast number. "He shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe" (2 Thessalonians 1:10).
6. The praises which are given to him on their account. From themselves, from the angelic hosts; on earth, in heaven; forever. In these ways God appears great and ever greater because of his relation to Christ and the Church.
II. THE PRAYER OF GOOD MEN RESPECTING IT. "Let thy Name be magnified;" let it become greater and greater in the sight of the intelligent universe, and become more and more admired and praised, through what is done in and for and by thy people.
1. Such a prayer is natural to good men. Because they love God, because they have received so much from him, and because they desire the welfare of others, which is involved in the magnifying of the Name of God,
2. There is much to intensify such a prayer.
(1) The condition of the Church. In which there is so much that does not glorify the Name of God, so little comparatively that does. To say that the Lord of hosts is God of such a people does not tend to honour him so greatly as his zealous servants desire. The prayer from their hearts and lips will mean, "Let Christ's people become so Christ-like as to make it manifest that their religion is from God, that they themselves are specially his, and that be is indeed a Being glorious in holiness and loving kindness."
(2) The condition of the world. In which God is so little thought of, his Name so little esteemed; in which idols and all manner of vain and even wicked things are magnified more than God; in which men give to themselves and their fellow men the honour which should be his; and whose salvation and whole well being would be ensured by those changes which would magnify the Name of God.
(3) The slow progress of the kingdom of God. The apparent weakness of the Church in reference to her great work, and her real insufficiency for it, should lead all Christians to pray that God would so "arise" and "let his work appear" in the spread and establishment of his kingdom that his Name may be magnified in the earth as it has never yet been.
3. Let the prayer be accompanied by practice. Let each of us who pray, "Hallowed be thy Name," so live as to aid in fulfilling our prayer; first, in our general character and conduct, and then by faithful endeavours to promote the honour of God amongst professing Christians and throughout the world. Also by hearty praise to God for all he has done in connection with Christ and Christianity to make his Name great and glorious.
Observe, finally, that the Name of God is magnified in the punishment of his enemies. Let us beware lest we be made in this manner to glorify him. Let us rather honour his Name as it appears in Jesus Christ by our faith and obedience; then he will honour it in our salvation.—G.W.
2 Samuel 7:27
Prayer induced and encouraged by promise.
David gives the promise of God to him as a reason for praying that his house might be established forever. He intimates that otherwise he would not have found it in his heart to do so. In like manner, the promises of God to Christians incite and encourage them to pray for bestowments that they would not have otherwise ventured to ask for.
I. THE GREATNESS OF GOD'S PROMISES. They set before us blessings so precious, vast, and enduring, that, apart from the declarations of God, we should never have dared to think of them as possible for us, or to pray for them. From the goodness and power of God in general we might have ventured to hope and pray for some blessings, hut not such as are now the common subjects of Christian prayer. Look in this view at some of the Divine promises, or declarations which are equivalent to promises.
1. As to the believer himself. Promises as to:
(1) Pardon of great and numerous sins, long practised. Repeated pardons.
(2) Renewal of nature and character. Deliverance from slavery to sins the most natural, the most habitual. "A new heart," etc.
(3) Adoption into the family of God. The Spirit of adoption. Participation of the Divine nature. Free access to God. Fellowship with him.
(4) Victory over the mightiest enemies.
(5) "Grace sufficient" for all circumstances, and highest good from them.
(6) Fulness of spiritual life, of knowledge, holiness, strength, joy. "Filled unto the fulness of God;" "Filled with the Spirit" The indwelling in the heart of Christ, of God, by the Holy Spirit. Truly there are heights of godliness, goodness, and blessedness attainable in this life, to which most of us are strangers.
(7) Heaven. Seeing God face to face; being with Christ, being like him in body, soul, condition; reigning with him as kings; experiencing "fulness of joy, pleasures forevermore." Let any one examine the statements of Holy Scripture on these subjects, and consider what they mean; and he must perceive that they set forth blessings which, apart from the assurances thus given, men could not have conceived of, much less imagined that they could ever be their own.
2. As to the future of the kingdom of God on earth. The attraction of all men to Christ; the universal spread of the knowledge, worship, and service of God; and consequently of peace, union, and brotherhood; obedience on earth to God's will as it is obeyed in heaven. In opposition to such a prospect is the whole history and experience of the world, with the exception of a small fraction; the depravity of mankind, the power of error, superstition, idolatry, priestcraft, old habits of wickedness, etc. Such a vision could never have appeared to men; or, if it had occurred to an active imagination, could never have been regarded as a matter for serious prayer and endeavour, if God had not given it by his prophets and by his Son.
II. THE EFFECT WHICH THESE PROMISES SHOULD HAVE ON OUR PRAYERS. They should:
1. Impel us to pray. Not lead us to neglect prayer, as if the Divine purpose and promise superseded all need for prayer. "Thus saith the Lord God: I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them" (Ezekiel 36:37). The blessings promised are for these who seek them.
2. Enrich and enlarge our prayers. The measure in which we receive is according to the measure in which we desire and ask (Luke 11:5-13; 2 Kings 13:18, 2 Kings 13:19).
3. Greatly encourage them. Leading us to pray with confidence and importunity. Petitions that would have been presumptuous without the promises are now sober and reasonable. We need not and ought not to be deterred either by:
(1) Our sinfulness and God's holiness and threatenings.
(2) Our insignificance and God's majesty.
(3) The greatness of the blessings promised, and our or incapacity to receive them; the difficulties in the way of the fulfilment of the
(4) the difficulties in the way of the fulfilment of the promises.
Sufficient that they are the promises of God, and he
(1) "Jehovah of hosts," having all things under his control, unchanging and eternal and;
(2) "God of Israel," our God, our covenant God, who has taken us to be his, and given himself to be ours in Christ Jesus. All that he has promised appears only to befit such a sublime relationship. (See further in homily on 2 Samuel 7:25.)—G.W.
2 Samuel 7:28
Truth of God's words.
"Thou art God, and thy words are truth" (Revised version). David may be thinking only of the promises of God, and expressing his own confidence in their fulfilment to himself and his family. But his assertion applies to all the words of God, declarations and threatenings as well as promises; and, as his language is general, his thought may be general also; and his faith in the truth of all the words of God might then be regarded as the ground of his faith in the promise made to himself. The words, "Thou art God," give the reason of his confidence in the Divine words. "Because thou art God, we know that 'thy words are truth,' and only truth."
I. THE GROUNDS OF OUR ASSURANCE OF THE TRUTH OF GOD'S WORDS. "Thou art God."
1. His nature and character.
(1) His universal knowledge. He cannot, like men, be mistaken, and honestly assert that for truth which is untrue.
(2) His essential truthfulness. Because he is God we are intuitively sure of this. As he cannot be mistaken, so he "cannot lie"
(3) His goodness. Which of itself would prevent him from misleading and deceiving his dependent creatures.
(4) His unbounded power. Men who are not untrue to their promises may be unable to fulfil them. Not so God.
(5) His unchangeableness. As well in faithfulness as in goodness and power. He can never become either unable or unwilling to fulfil his Word.
2. His doings. The actual fulfilment of his words.
(1) In the history of the world; especially the promises respecting the Christ, the blessings he would bestow, and the changes he would effect. The faithfulness of God to his Word, as shown in the previous history of Israel, would assure David of the fulfilment of the promises to himself.
(2) Within the range of our own observation and experience. The words of God as to the results of faith and unbelief, of holiness and sin, of prayerfulness and prayerlessness, are continually being accomplished. Our personal experience testifies to their truth, and we can witness their fulfilment in others.
II. THE WORDS RESPECTING WHICH WE HAVE THIS ASSURANCE. All declarations that can be traced to God, whether ascertained by unaided reason (as we say, though the living God through the eternal Word is ever working in the human reason) or by the inspired Book. God speaks in nature as well as in the Bible. Scientific truth, and moral truth known by the conscience, are from him as well as religious. But as Christians we have to do with the words of God in Holy Scripture, and especially with the "truth which is in Jesus." As he declared in language almost identical with David's, "Thy Word is truth" (John 17:17), so he said of himself, "I am the Truth" (John 14:6). And it is of unspeakable importance to be assured that he is and gives the revelation of God; that all that he is and says is the truth. And as he declares of the Old Testament that "the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35), we have his warrant for full Confidence also in the more ancient revelation. God's words as thus ascertained relate to:
1. Existences. God himself, his Son, his Spirit. Inhabitants of the invisible world—angels, Satan, demons. Mankind—the nature of man, purposes of his creation, the relations he sustains, his fallen condition, etc. For our knowledge of the invisible beings and things we depend on the Word of God, mainly the Scriptures; and the knowledge thus acquired is, we may be sure, truth.
2. Moral laws. Known partly by reason, partly by Scripture. However ascertained, we know them to be truth.
3. Spiritual truths and laws. The redeeming love and works of God and our Saviour; the way in which they become effectual for ourselves; the duties thence arising.
4. The results of our conduct in respect to these truths and laws. That is, the promises and the threatenings of God, as to both the present life and the eternal future.
Observe, that it is the words of God about these things which are the truth; not necessarily the assertions of men—individuals or Churches—respecting them. It is for human teachers, not to require of their brethren unquestioning faith in their statements, but to lead them up to where they may hear the utterances of God himself. And this is to be done, not merely by proving their assertions by the letter of Scripture, but by cherishing themselves, and fostering in others, the spirit which enables communion with "the Father of spirits" (Hebrews 12:9). If God's words be truth:
1. We should seek full knowledge of them.
2. We should exercise undoubting faith in them.
(1) The faith which realizes the invisible and eternal; apprehends and feels them to be as God says.
(2) The faith which is full confidence in the Divine promises and threatenings, assurance that our own future and that of others will be according to them. We have such a faith only when our belief sways and rules our hearts and lives.
3. We should imitate God as to our truthfulness and the actual truth of our words. Being true and sincere in our character and utterances, and taking care that what we truly say shall be truth.—G.W.
2 Samuel 7:29
A good man's prayer for his family.
David's prayer has especial reference to the promise given him that his family should continue forever to rule Israel. We may take the prayer as suitable to be used by any godly father for his children and children's children.
I. THE PRAYER. That God would bless the family. A Christian father offering this prayer would have regard to:
1. Temporal blessings. Prolonged life, good health of body and mind, success in worldly pursuits, competence. Asking for these as a blessing from God implies the desire that they should be granted only so far as they will be blessings; that they should come as the result of God's blessing on upright means (not from fraud, injustice, or violence; see Proverbs 10:22); and that they should be accompanied with God's blessing, so that they may not ensnare and injure the soul, but promote its prosperity and highest happiness. Thus regarded, such a prayer is not unbecoming the heart and lips of any good man.
2. Spiritual blessings. That the family may be worthy the name of a Christian household, all being truly the children of God, worshipping and serving him faithfully and to the end. A Christian parent will be more desirous that his house should be good than great—"rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom" (James 2:5) rather than possessed of material wealth. For such blessings he need not restrain his desires, as they are good in and for themselves, good always and forever. The poorest may seek these for his children, who may enjoy them equally with the wealthiest: they are open to all.
3. Eternal blessings. That he and his may "continue forever before God" (comp. Genesis 17:18), and "be blessed forever" numbered with the saints in the glory everlasting. The words translated, "let it please thee to bless," may be more literally rendered "begin and bless". As if David's thoughts reverted from the distant future to the present; and he became acutely alive to the fact that, for the accomplishment of the promise in the future, it was necessary that Cod should be with him and his at once and all along. In the heart of a Christian the meaning may well be, "Let thy blessing come at once, without any delay, on my house, to correct what is wrong, to increase what is right, to produce those conditions which are most favourable to all good, as they most fully ensure thy constant favour."
II. WHENCE IT ARISES.
1. Godliness. Sense of the value of God's blessing; preference of it over all else; confidence in God's fatherly love and sympathy with the love of earthly parents for their children; and faith in his promises.
2. Parental feeling. Love for his family; longing for their true and lasting happiness and well being.
3. Regard for his own happiness. Which is necessarily bound up with the goodness and happiness of his children.
1. Such prayer, when real, will be accompanied by Christian instruction and training. (Ephesians 6:4.)
2. Let children thank God for praying parents. Let them keep before them the image of their fathers and mothers daily kneeling before God, and imploring his blessing on them. Let them, however, not trust to their prayers as sufficient to ensure their salvation; but pray for themselves. (See more on 2 Samuel 6:20.)—G.W.