The Davidic Covenant carries within it three specific promises from God to David. First, God promised that David’s physical line of descendants would endure forever (2 Sam. 7:16; 2 Chron. 21:7; Ps. 89: 3-4, 36). Second, God promised that David’s “kingdom” would never pass away permanently. This meant that the kingdom might not be functional at all times throughout history, but that God could always restore it. And thirdly, God promised David that his “throne” or his authority to rule, would also never cease permanently. This does not mean that there would always be a descendant of David on the throne in Jerusalem, but it did mean that the possibility of one of David’s descendants being able to ascend to the throne would always be a reality (2 Chron. 7:18; Ps. 89:3-4; Jer. 33:17). All these promises relied solely on God’s ability to make them happen. They did not rest upon David or his ability to bring them about.
David acknowledged God’s faithful promises as his life drew to a close and affirmed them in 2 Sam. 23:1-7. He likens God’s ability to fulfill this covenant to nature’s ability to make a branch grow and calls to mind other passages with the same imagery (Is. 4:2; 11:5; Zech. 3:8; 6:12-13; Jer. 23:5; 33:15-16). In Ps. 132 David repeats the details of this wonderful promise: that God has sworn it (v. 11), that it is David’s descendants the promise is concerned with (v.12), and that Jerusalem is where the eternal throne will be established (v. 13). Once again in verse 17, David affirms that it is God who will cause this branch to grow. If you have ever seen a bush, such as a Forsythia, trimmed to the ground in the Fall send up new shoots in the Spring, this is the picture being drawn here. Bushes are one thing, but a whole line of human descendants cut off and then rejuvenated? Crazy, right?!
This aspect of the Davidic Covenant truly appears to be a contradiction then when the nation of Judah is led into exile (2 Ki. 25:1-11; 2 Chron. 36:15-20). The rule of David is never fully restored after 586 B. C. for even though the King of Persia eventually allows the Jews to return to worship in Jerusalem, the nation will remain a vassal state in one form or another until 1948 A. D.! Yet the promise to David remains a strong undercurrent in the flow of history. Today’s Promised Land looks different than it did at the time of Jesus’ birth border-wise, but the fulfillment of the promise to David involved more than a physical throne. It hinged more specifically on the One who would sit on the throne. Thus, the genealogies found in Mt. 1 and Lk. 3 highlight Christ’s physical connection to David (through Joseph’s line in Mt. and Mary’s in Lk.). Matthew is especially concerned with this in light of the role and purpose of the Messiah, whom he is establishing to be Jesus via His lineage and association with David (Mt. 1:1).
The three aspects of the Davidic Covenant come to fruition in Christ as the rightful heir to the throne. Christ’s reign will not come to an end (Lk. 1:31-33), Christ will sit on the throne and reign from Jerusalem (Acts 2:30), and His reign will be eternal (Is. 9:7). The Bible is clear that the Davidic Covenant will be fulfilled (Ps. 89:28-37; Ps. 132:11; Jer. 23:5-6; 33:14-17; 20-21; Lk. 1:31-33). These passages show there was never any doubt that the Covenant would not be fulfilled. So, if God is so specifically faithful to His promises to David (Mt. 1:22-23), we know that all He has promised to us will be fulfilled as well (Jn. 14:26; Rom. 8:38-39; Eph. 2:8-10; 1 Thes. 5:24; 1 Jn. 1:9; Rev. 22:20 to name a few!).
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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