13. David’s Dynastic Prayer

Praise and Prayer

 THE DAVIDIC DYNASTY had a very delightful beginning. The shepherd king never asked for a continuance of his line. Indeed, instead of being concerned with his own affairs, he was thinking of the glory of God. He was dwelling in a house of cedar, a very rare and rich structure for his day, while the coffer of God was lodged under a covering of sheets. This did not seem right to him, so he desired to build a house magnifical of gold and silver and of costly stones and cedar, more in keeping with the glory of Jehovah's name. This greatly pleased his God, for it manifested an unselfish and grateful heart, in which the Deity delights (2 Sam.7:1-17).

The tabernacle and the temple were not really David's affair. He had been anointed to be king, not chief priest. Indeed, he could not be, as he was not of the house of Aaron. But what priest has composed so many and such precious psalms in praise of Jehovah God? But he never ventured to intrude into the priestly prerogatives like Uzziah, who dared go into the temple to burn incense, and was stricken with leprosy for his transgression (2 Chron.26:16). But he did put the worship of God before the welfare of men, for he knew that this is the source of all blessing. This is the great lesson to be learned from history. It is nowhere more fully and clearly illustrated than in the chronicles of the house of David. If his seed had inherited his spirit of worship, its record would have been very different. But the failures are clearly set forth as due to departures from the ways and worship of Jehovah.

Because David was so eager for God to have a house suited to His splendor, Jehovah turned the tables on him and promised him a “house,” that is, that his name should be carried on by his descendants, and his throne should be established for the eon. This assured him of political headship for the eons. It will be finally fulfilled by God's Anointed, whose parents were both descendants of David. Joseph was of the spiritual and legal line, and Mary, His mother, the physical link. This made Him the Seed and Son of David and Heir to his throne. His domain will reach even further than was promised to David, even until all rule is ruled out, and the kingdom becomes the Father's.

The Davidic dynasty is God's delegate in ruling the nations of the earth. He had given Adam, and his race, the right to sway over the lower creatures because they are disposers like Himself, so far as these are concerned (Gen.1:28). He also inaugurated the rule of man over man after the deluge (Gen.9:6). From this sprang nations. Of Abram He promised to make a great nation to bless all the rest (Gen.12:2). He Himself was the King of Israel when they became a nation, after their deliverance from Egypt. He ruled through priests and prophets and judges. But the people rejected Him and called for a human king, like the other nations. As a result, He gave them two dynasties, first the “house” of Saul, according to the wishes of the people, and when he failed, He gave them David, a man in harmony with His own heart, and his “house,” from which came the Son of David, the Lord of lords and King of kings.

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Meanwhile, until the coming of David's greater Son, the seed of David was not to continue in an unbroken line, for the covenant of the kingdom was contingent on their conduct. His first follower, Solomon, carried out David's wish and built the magnificent temple to which his name is attached. But he was not true to Jehovah in his later years, so his successors were corrected with the club of a mortal, as Jehovah had foretold. He even sent His prophet to appoint Jeroboam to be king over the ten tribes before Solomon's death. And, when Rehoboam, his son, wished to fight for the throne, Jehovah would not allow him to do so (1 Kings 11:26-40).

Ever since the days of Solomon, Israel has been under the discipline of the club. The mortals were of two kinds, first, the kings of the ten tribes, the successors of Jeroboam, against David's seed on the throne of Judah, and, second, the kings of the nations against the whole of Israel. For David's sake, Solomon was spared the division, and Judah was given a longer tenancy in the land than Israel. Today, once more, a remnant of the nation is in the land, and they have chosen themselves a president. But they have paid no attention whatever to the claims of David’s seed, so they will suffer their greatest affliction under the club of the false messiah. Yet this will prepare them for the advent of the Son of David, and their place of supremacy over the nations in the day of Jehovah.

In response, David's figurative posture and mental attitude will give us the first and finest clue to his character. He sat before Jehovah. He was at rest in His presence. He had led a very active life, and would have gladly continued and crowned his life work by building a splendid sanctuary for the God of Israel. But he was not hurt or offended by Jehovah's refusal to grant his request. Indeed, though he did not actually erect the temple himself, he provided the site, and prepared for the building by accumulating a vast amount of the material. His lifelong experience had taught him to bow to the will of Jehovah with gladnesss, for he was assured that Jehovah withheld no good from His people. Not only his attitude, but his words, are most significant. “Who am I?” “What is my house?” Here we see exemplified a primary and prevailing principle in God's government. He who is exalting himself shall be humbled, yet he who is humbling himself shall be exalted (Luke 18:14). Eventually all will be headed up in Him Who was meek and humble in heart (Matt.11:29), not in the son of destruction who lifts himself above all others, even the Deity Himself (2 Thess.2:3-5; Dan.11: 36). Headship is not inherent in mortal man, and is his, not because of his qualifications or ability, but only as a gift from God. Nebuchadnezzar had not been taught this in his experience, as David was, so had to learn it in a short time by severe discipline. This also was true of David's successors and the nation of Israel. Their trials and persecutions are God's means of preparing them for their headship.

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David's name is a key to his character. I cannot recollect ever seeing its meaning given as anything else than “Beloved.” But this fails to bring out the principal point, and implies that God loves only those whom He likes, which is a fundamental and fatal error. God is love. He loves all His creatures. He so loved the world that He gave His Son for its salvation. He loved all of Israel. He even loved Saul, who had disobeyed Him, and was deposed from his place as king of Israel. Headship is not based on this love alone, or all would become sovereigns and leave no subjects. The Hebrew word for love is aeb, not dud. The law demanded that they should love their associate as themselves. They were even required to love foreigners who sojourned among them (Deut.10:19).

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The stem of David, in Hebrew, denotes AFFECTION, fondness, dearness, darling. English does not seem to have a single expression to cover the case. It corresponds to the stem phil in Greek, which we use in many names, such as Philemon and Philetus and Theophilus (God-FOND) and Philadelphia (FOND-BROTHER). Many examples will be found under the stem FOND in the C.V. Concordance. Its force is clearly seen in the word agreeable (TOWARD-FOND). We are told to love our enemies, but we are not asked to be fond of them, or make friends of them, any more than God was fond of Saul, or His other enemies, who are not in accord with His heart, as David was. In John's account we not only read of God's love for the world (John 3:16), but of His fondness for His Son (John 5:20) and for the disciples (John 16:27).

It is remarkable that the word fond is especially introduced into the relationship of Peter, one of the pillars among the apostles, who rule the tribes of Israel, to the Son of David, Who will rule the world. When our Lord asks Simon Peter, “Are you loving Me more than these?” the apostle did not insist that he loved Him, but used the term more expressive of his personal affection, “Thou art aware that I am fond of Thee.” As in the case of David, he was in accord with the heart of His Lord. Once more the Lord used the word “love,” but the third time He also changes to “fond.” And each time, in response to the expression of personal affection, Peter is given the shepherd commission, which invested him with headship when the Chief Shepherd takes His place over Israel.

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David had been anointed king over Israel while Saul was still reigning, long before he ascended the throne. In this, he was a type of the rejected, persecuted Messiah. But even after he had been king for some time, he had not received any promise for his seed. It was only after he had defeated the enemies of Israel and sat in his own house at peace, that the question of his “house,” or dynasty, came up. David was not primarily concerned about his future descendants, but about a proper habitation for Jehovah. It was his solicitude for the glory of God that drew out the response of Jehovah and the throne covenant. Through Abraham, Israel had the covenant as to the land, because he believed God, which will be fulfilled by the Son of Abraham. Through David came the covenant as to the throne, because he honored Jehovah, which will be fulfilled by the Son of David, when He comes.

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The principal concern of the reign of David was the habitation of Jehovah. In the first half, he brings the tabernacle back to its place in the midst of Jehovah's people. As a result, he is prospered in all his efforts and conflicts, so that he was at rest. Once again his thoughts turn to Jehovah's dwelling, and he laments that it is only a temporary tent, while he lives in a permanent palace, as though Jehovah was paying a fleeting visit, while David himself was a fixture! His desire was that Jehovah have a permanent place in the midst of His people, and in such a splendor as befits His glory.

It was this desire of David to give Jehovah a terrestrial temple to be the immovable, permanent center of Israel's worship, which prompted Jehovah to give David a covenant to correspond to it, by promising him a permanent royal “house.” Thus God's rule as well as worship will be established in Israel for the future. And with this in mind, David once more takes his seat before Jehovah and gives vent to his feelings of thankfulness, not only for himself, but for Israel also, and prays for those who form his future “house” (2 Sam.7:18-29).

The very form of David's prayer shows that it is vivified by divine inspiration. He balances his thanksgiving for himself (18-22) by a petition for his house (25-29), and, parenthetically, for the whole nation of Israel (23-24). Even his own abasement (18) he beautifully balances with the exaltation of Jehovah (22) and God's promise (19) with His heart (20-21). We have all heard human prayers, and multitudes have been composed to assist us in our devotions, but where is one that is so naturally and delightfully formed? This, of course, is a minor matter in itself, but as an intimation and expression of God's spirit, it is most suitable and in accord with the sentiments conveyed, and marks it, not merely as a prayer of David, but also a prayer of God.

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“Who am I?” The ancestors of David were nothing to boast about, unless it be that his great-grandmother was Ruth. But she was a Moabitess, and no man of her race could enter into the assembly of Jehovah (Deut.23:3). Notwithstanding her faith and lovely character, she was not an asset in Israel. In his own family, David was last and least, He was not a firstborn son by any means, but an eighth-born, for he had seven older brothers. His eldest brother evidently excelled him so far as stature and outward appearance were concerned, even though he was ruddy, with lovely eyes (1 Sam.16:12). On the other hand, he was descended from Abraham, and Israel, and of the tribe of Judah, to which the scepter, or club of pre-eminence belonged, although among the lowest of these. This was his inheritance from the past. But his present position was very high, indeed, and might easily have filled him with self-importance and pardonable pride. Had he not slain Goliath, and saved Israel from a humiliating defeat (1 Sam.17:23-51)? He it was of whom the women sang, saying,

“Saul smites his thousands,
Yet David his myriads” (1 Sam.18:7).

He it was who had brought Israel rest from their enemies, and prosperity and power such as they had never had before. He it was who had led the praises of Israel. He had brought back the coffer of Jehovah. And He was now concerned to build a temple for the honor of His name. Who else could boast of any feats comparable to these? But his greatest accomplishment, by far, was his knowledge of Jehovah, which made him small in his own sight, so that he humbled himself, and deemed himself altogether unworthy of these new honors.

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In the orient, perhaps the greatest disgrace is not to have a son, and the greatest honor to found a dynasty made up of a continuous chain of sons. David's thanksgiving was, first of all, confined to the blessings he had already enjoyed. But this he considers a small thing in Jehovah's eyes, for now, he was promised immeasurably more in the far future. And, indeed, what did David's honors amount to up to this time, compared with those which come to Him as the founder of the Davidic dynasty of many kings, or of even One, the Son of David, the Messiah of Israel? He will not only be the King of Israel, but King of all other kings. Indeed, He will subject all under the Father's feet, and then Himself be subject, so that God is All in all.

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The A.V. makes the following unanswered question: “And is this the manner of man, O Lord God?” This seems to imply that man does not act in this way. But the Revisers, seeing that it is not a question in Hebrew, make it a statement: “And this, too, after the manner of men.” This suggests that men do act this way. Neither of these are in accord with the context. The Hebrew reads, “And this [is] the law of mankind [the human].” If we had a sublinear which shows the stems, it would read, AND THIS AIM of THE TO-be-LIKE. We might render this freely. This is the aim of the one who is like [God, the Disposer]. David, himself, in one of his psalms, is the best commentator on this text. Speaking of man and his mission, he says (Psa.8:5-6):

And with glory and honor art Thou crowning him.
The rule art Thou giving him among that made by Thy hands.

God's aim with mankind was announced to Adam at his creation (Gen.1:26). The sphere of his sway is gradually enlarged from being “like” adm God in relation to the lower creatures, to include the headship of a family, a nation, all mankind, and all creation. It culminates in the subjection of all to Christ as the Son of Adam and the Son of David, and the Son of God. Of all the circumcision writers, David seems to have a greater grasp of this truth than any other, hence he refers to it as the “law” of mankind. He finds himself in the line of God's purpose. He realizes that God is fulfilling his own delight in thus dealing with him, so that there is no need for him to be great or worthy in order to have a place in His plan.

But these thoughts overwhelm David, much as Paul was compelled to confess that we are not aware what we should pray for (Rom.8:27). So he falls back on the comforting consciousness that God is aware, and says “Thou knowest Thy servant....” He does not need to explore for any merit in himself to find a basis for God's blessing. Jehovah does it for the sake of His own Word, and in harmony with His own heart. Perhaps we are in a better position than David to see that Jehovah needed a character like him to typify the coming One, Who does deserve all the greatness that came to David, and far more, and will fulfill that which David only foreshadowed (20,21).

David had commenced this portion of his prayer, which concerned himself (18-22), with a confession of his own worthlessness. Now he closes it with an acclamation of Jehovah's greatness. “Great art thou, Jehovah God, for there is no one as Thou art, and there is no God except Thee among all of whom we hear with our ears” (22). What a fitting finish for this “selfish” part of the prayer! He now turns away from his private interests to the nation with which his lot is cast (23,24) and then to the “house,” his future seed, which was the impulse to the prayer, to begin with.

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“Who are as Thy people, as Israel? Is there another nation in the earth which is guided by God...?” (23). What a contrast with “Who am I?” (18)! David fully realized, what few of the chosen people have ever comprehended, that the blessing of Israel is not dependent on their worthiness, but upon Jehovah's glory, for His fame follows from their welfare. He had already used them to make known His fame, by delivering them from Egypt. And now He needed only to perform His own promises, and glorify His own name, in order to bring them eonian bliss. In fact, their utter unworthiness during this wicked eon will only enhance His glory in the eons of the eons, when the Son of David is on the throne.

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David was not allowed to build the temple. He could supply some of the material of Jehovah's house, but left its erection to his son, Solomon. Is this not a physical parallel to the spiritual truth that his sons and successors never succeeded in making a permanent abode for Jehovah, but have left it for David's greater Son, the Messiah? The promise was that David's seed should build Jehovah's house (13), but David knew fairly well what is in man, so he had little confidence in him. He himself had written (Psa.8:4): “What is a mortal, that Thou art mindful of him?” So, in his prayer, he boldly claims that Jehovah of Hosts, the God of Israel, had said, “A house will I build for you” (27).

Although David's prayer has no direct application to us today, the spirit of it is far above that which prevails among us. This should not be, for we have been shown grace far beyond that revealed in David's day, and have been enriched, with spiritual celestial blessings of which he could have no conception. It should help us to see how utterly absent was his dependence on man, either himself or his house, and how strong was his confidence in God. To faith, his prayer has already been answered, for the Son of David, through His humiliation, His sacrifice, His resurrection, ascension, and coming again, has not only prepared for a temple much more magnificent than ever Solomon's, but laid the foundation for a spiritual house, composed of all His saints, in whom He now makes His home, and which will be His permanent habitation for the eons and further.

A. E. Knoch

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