GOD’S PROMISE TO DAVID 1 Chronicles 17–21“I declare to you that the Lord will build a house for you” (1 Chron. 17:10).God’s faithfulness to His promises to David provided a foundation of hope for the tiny, postexilic Judean community of 450B.C God’s promises remain the basis of hope for us today.
The Davidic Covenant.
God made a series of promises to David through Nathan the prophet. David would defeat his enemies and bring Israel peace. An offspring of David would build the temple David dreamed of constructing. One day David’s Offspring would be “set over My house and My [God’s] kingdom forever; His throne will be established forever.” Some elements of the promises to David were fulfilled in his lifetime. David did defeat Israel’s enemies, expand her territory, and win a reputation as Israel’s greatest king. Other elements were fulfilled in Solomon, who succeeded David and built the Jerusalem temple. But those elements of the promise concerning an eternal kingdom relate to an “Offspring” to be born in the distant future. As New Testament genealogies show, this distant Offspring was Jesus Christ, who as the Son of God is destined to rule eternally. The writer of the Book of Chronicles, intent on offering hope to his generation, reported the divine promise and in the next chapters showed that God was indeed faithful to His commitments in David’s own lifetime. As the Chronicles continue, the author will show that the promised temple was built, and in 2 Chronicles will show that a descendant of David always sat on Judah’s throne. God has been faithful, the Chronicler argues, so we can expect God to be faithful. One day a Descendant of David will restore the glory of Israel. He will live an endless life, and He will rule forever and ever.
David was not allowed to build a temple. But God promised to build David’s “house” (17:1–15), stunning Israel’s humble king (vv. 16–27). God’s faithfulness to the promise is shown by David’s victories (18:1–20:8). God used David’s sin to lead him to the site of the future temple (21:1–30).
Understanding the Text
“I will raise up your offspring to succeed you” 1 Chron. 17:1–15. God does not ask us to do great things for Him. Instead He seeks to do great things for and through us. The Lord refused David permission to build Him a temple. Instead God told David what He would do. What God intended to do for David was to make his name great and subdue all his enemies. David would have great success as a ruler (vv. 7–8, 10). What God intended to do through David was to make His people secure (v. 9), and from David’s family line raise up a Person who would rule God’s kingdom forever (vv. 11–14). This later prediction follows the “law of double fulfillment” which often governs interpretation of prophecy. The prophecy is fulfilled immediately, but that immediate fulfillment is a type of an ultimate fulfillment also intended. God did establish David’s son Solomon as king, gave him a peaceful rule, and permitted him to build God’s house. Yet in the distant future a far greater Offspring of David than Solomon would be born. That future Offspring will bring peace to the universe itself, and rule God’s entire kingdom, not just for a few years but forever. One of the lessons we learn from David is to submit to God so He can act for us. Only when we open our lives to the Lord and let Him act for us will God do great things through us. “The Lord gave David victory everywhere he went” 1 Chron. 18:1–20:8. When David became king, Israel was a small nation surrounded by powerful enemies. These chapters recount the military victories which enabled David to expand his kingdom and control adjacent lands. One incident reported in these chapters reveals David’s conviction that his victories could be won only with the help of the Lord. Deuteronomy 17:16 commanded that no king of Israel should obtain horses. This meant that Israel would have no cavalry and no chariot army, both important components of ancient armed forces. Chariots particularly were decisive weapons in many battles in the Middle East. Yet 2 Samuel 8:4 tells us that when David captured a thousand chariots from Hadadezer, he hamstrung all but a hundred chariot horses! This act, cutting the tendon in the horses’ forelegs, lamed the animals and made them unfit for warfare. David chose to obey God and rely completely on Him. He was not tempted to turn to the “super weapons” of the ancient world, for he knew that without God’s help they would be useless—and with God’s help chariots would be unnecessary. What a lesson for us today. We need not rely on the weapons of this world. Without God’s help, they are useless. And with God’s help, we do not need them. “A census of Israel” 1 Chron. 21:1–7. The Hebrew shatan means “adversary.” It is possible that it should be rendered this way in 21:1. In that case, Satan was not involved but it was the appearance of adversaries preparing for war against Israel that prompted David to take a military census. For some reason taking the census was wrong. Perhaps God had spoken against it. Perhaps it reflected a lack of trust in God. Whatever the reason, the act was sin, and God announced that He would punish David and Israel. We are not only to act in harmony with God’s Word, but also must examine our own motives. Romans reminds us, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). “Tell David to go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah” 1 Chron. 21:8–30. David selected his penalty, but when he saw the death of so many, David begged the Lord to punish him personally. Instead God told David to build an altar on Araunah’s threshing floor. This height just across from the present City of David was in fact the place where Abraham had come to offer up his son Isaac (Gen. 22). This was also the place which God had chosen for construction of the temple. The incident is prophetic, in that where David built an altar and offered a prayer that turned away divine judgment, Solomon would build a temple that symbolized God’s gracious presence with His people. There in the centuries to come Israel and Judah would also appeal to God. It was sin that brought David to the threshing floor to build an altar. Often sin would bring Judah to the temple built on that same threshing floor to seek forgiveness.
Claiming God’s Promises (1 Chron. 17)
I suppose, “Claim God’s promises” is one of the most frequent exhortations that Christians hear from the pulpit. Yet like much of religious jargon, that phrase may be puzzling to many. What does it mean to “claim God’s promises”? And how does a person go about doing it? David’s response to the wonderful promises the Lord made to him is one of Scripture’s clearest examples of claiming God’s promises. David shows us how we too are to respond to promises from God, to claim His promises for ourselves. (1) David expressed wonder at God’s goodness to him (vv. 16–19). (2) David praised God for His past acts on behalf of His people (vv. 20–22). (3) Finally David expressed confidence that God would “do as You promised.” David says, “You, O Lord, have blessed it, and it will be blessed forever” (vv. 23–27). How do we follow David’s pattern? When we find a promise in God’s Word, we are first to express our wonder at God’s goodness to us. We should then praise God, thinking of all He has done for us in Christ, and in our lives to date. Then we need to express our confidence that God will keep the promise He has made—and then live obediently in the conviction that God will do all He has said. If you and I claim God’s promises by finding them, thanking God for them, believing them, and then acting on them—we will find out how completely faithful the Lord is to His Word.
When you find a promise in Scripture, claim it as your own.