January 31, 2021
When King David desired to build a new house for the ark of the covenant, the Lord spoke to the prophet Nathan and gave him a promise to share with the king. Through David’s offspring, Israel would be given a name, a place, peace, and rest. Alistair Begg unpacks this important passage of Scripture, emphasizing how it both looks back at the covenant God made with Abraham and looks forward to its eternal fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
Well, we turn again to 2 Samuel 7, and we’ll read once again from the eighth verse to the seventeenth. And 2 Samuel 7:8:
“‘Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I[’ll] appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.”’ In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.”
Well, Lord, we come to you now before your Holy Word. We come as children. We come small. We come needy. We come asking for the help of the Holy Spirit to see your Word unfolded for us in such a way that we understand the central emphasis that this passage contains. For we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen. Amen.
Well, I just bumped into somebody who said, “I’m looking forward to your fourth attempt at 2 Samuel 7,” to which I said, “Don’t hold your breath.” So, I’m keenly looking forward to getting to verse 18. I’m sure you are too.
The title that I gave to this morning’s study and again to this evening is simply “Understanding the Promise.” We perhaps should have given it the title “Trying to Understand the Promise,” but actually, the promise is very straightforward and very, very clear. Any confusion is of our own making. And we come to this, as we said at the tail end of the morning hour, after David’s proposal to build a place for the ark, the response of God to say, “No, my perspective is a different perspective. This will actually fall to one of your heirs to do. You will not do this. And furthermore, I will make a house for your name—for my name, for you.”
And so it is to that promise that we come. And it breaks out for us—I think we can see it—in immediate terms and then, if you like, in ultimate terms: so, initially, from verse 8 on, the way in which this promise will be fulfilled during David’s lifetime; and then subsequently, the way that this promise will be fulfilled after David’s death. And part of the challenge in tackling this section is the way in which the material is telescoped, and every so often, if we take hold of the telescope and we are holding it the wrong way round, we’ll get ourselves in greater difficulty. I hope that we won’t do that.
So first of all, then, very straightforwardly, the promise is there: “This is what you shall say to my servant David,” and then what we saw this morning: “I took you to make you. I provided for you. I protected you. And now, I want you to know that I will make for you a great name.” “A great name.” And, of course, it goes on to say, “a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth”—and none, to this point in biblical history, greater than Abraham himself. And indeed, the promise of making a name for David is simply an echo of the promise of God to Abraham himself. And the Lord intended to fulfill his promise to Abraham, to make Abraham’s name great, by making David’s name great—and in doing so, making Abraham’s name great. So the two things fold into one another.
Now, of course, there is a sense in which the name of David was already great. The people had been singing about his triumph in battle and so on. And the word was on the street that this character David was a significant character, and he had a name that was well spoken. But the whole point of it is simply that the promise not only looks back to Abraham, but the promise ultimately looks forward to the Lord Jesus Christ, at whose name every knee will bow.
So first of all, then, a name. And then secondly, a place: “so that they may…” “I will appoint a place for my people Israel and [I] will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more.” Now, his people are his people Israel, as we see there. And this again is an echo. You get tired of me saying this, but often what is happening is referencing that which has gone before, and particularly a little of what we saw this morning in terms of the exodus. And I’m just going to quote to you from Exodus 15:17:
You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,
the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode,
the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.
And then it says, “[And] the Lord will reign forever and ever.”
Now, this verb here, I think, is significant—this planting of them—because way back there in the exodus, that is the very terminology that is used: that they were to be planted. And in point of fact, they were planted. Ever since the days of Joshua, they were living in the land. And we would remember that, some of us, from Sunday school. And so the promise of being planted here and of being secure also leads forward from here. In some measure people could have said, “Well, we can look back to that. We can look back to how we went into the land, how entry was through the shedding of the blood of the lamb.” And the liberation from the bondage of Egypt had all taken place, and it was gloriously accomplished. But the promise, once again, is not yet fully accomplished, and that is what we’re constantly dealing with. It is both sending us back to a point of reference and then it is making it clear to us that there is still more that is to come.
The really significant dimension of a place is, of course, because God is present among his people, and he rules among his people by his king. And so when we look at that—and in that Exodus passage, I think it’s helpful that it immediately says… I wish I hadn’t turned away from it. But it immediately says, “You will bring them in, plant them on the mountain, place them” and so on “in the sanctuary that you have established”—which makes it all feel very much like “That’s it, that’s now, that’s done.” And then immediately it says, “[And] the Lord will reign forever and [for]ever.”
So you get this pulling forward always. And what we need to understand—and it’s part of the reason that I fiddled around for a while this morning—is that this place is actually a shadow of the reality that is yet to come. It is a significant place; there is no doubt about that. But it points us forward to another place, to the ultimate place. And as I said this morning, if we miss that dimension of it, then we will constantly be focused on Jerusalem in the Middle East rather than awaiting for new Jerusalem to come out of heaven for us in a new heaven and in a new earth.
The hymn writers in earlier eras, irrespective of their view of these things, were always pointing us forward. So I just wrote in my notes an old hymn from my childhood:
There’s a land that is fairer than day,
And by faith we [shall] see it afar;
For our Father waits over the way
To prepare us a dwelling place there.
[And] in the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore.
That the Bible is always pressing us forward; that the communion that we enjoy with those who have actually gone before us, who are in the presence of Jesus now, is a realistic communion; that it is a strange and mysterious reality, but it is nevertheless a reality. And somehow or another, in the mystery of God’s purposes, these things come together.
So, there is a place that will be there for a while. They’re in the place. It’s got a dimension that takes them forward. It doesn’t just take them forward for a wee while; it takes them forward into the realm of forever.
So, along with that, a name and a place, and in that place the promise of peace and of security—again, a reminder that the goal is not reached; it’s still in the future. And along with that, rest. You can see it there in the text: “I will appoint a place for my people. They won’t be besieged by violent men as formerly, from the time I appointed judges”—all the chaos in the book of Judges, one minute stepping forward, the next minute being besieged and so on. And then here’s this promise: “And I will give you rest from all your enemies.”
Well, of course, the chapter begins with rest. The very reason, it seems, that David had this plan to build a house for the ark had to do with the fact that he was enjoying rest. It was the first time he’s really had a rest for a while. He’d been involved in so many battles and so on. And now here is the promise, that there is rest. Well, clearly, again, at the risk of just undue repetition, there is a name, and it is yet coming; there is a place, and it is yet to be; and there is rest, but it’s not the ultimate rest of the people of God, to which this points.
Now, that’s really enough. That’s all that needs to be said. More can be said. The promise of God, fulfilled while David is alive, is as stated: a place in which there is peace and rest and a name which will be established.
Now, from that point on, it then moves to when David will no longer be around. Verse 12: “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers…” In other words, all that has happened to this point is a precursor. In some ways, it’s the hors d’oeuvre course before we have the entrée, and that’s going to come “when your days are fulfilled.” And when this happens, that is the context in which, back in verse 11, “[I] the Lord will make you a house.” “I will make you a house.”
Now, the very foundational part of this that we need to note is straightforward—namely, that God’s promise to David will not be destroyed by David’s death. All right? Unlike what had happened to Saul. Saul came and was gone. Samuel came and was gone. And their period in the sun, if you like, is now in the past. But in relationship to this promise made to David, God’s son, the king, it will not end with his death. And in fact, it will be accomplished through offspring. Through offspring.
Now, I tried to fiddle with this again last Sunday, and I won’t go back down that road. I don’t think it was particularly effective anyway. But just the very use of the word “offspring” or “seed,” depending on which translation you’re using, should remind us once again of God’s promise to Abraham. Because the promise of God to Abraham was “I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted.”
Parenthetically, that’s a quite amazing statement, isn’t it, when you think about a company that no one can number? When you think about the end of the story in the great evangelistic purpose of God and of his church, the idea that some of us might have on an evening like this is, you know, “The numbers are so small, we are apparently so ineffective. We’re pushing the ball up the hill against the tidal wave of varieties of religions and isms and so on.” But no, no, no, no, no! The seed of Abraham, the seed of Abraham—if you could count it, you would have to be able to count the dust of the earth. That is amazing, isn’t it? It’s supposed to amaze us. Stand amazed at such a thing! And the promise of God to Abraham is then advancing through his promise to David as the king—and again I say the same thing—who is also enjoying the privileges that Abraham enjoyed, so that as the promise to Abraham advances through the seed of David, so the promise to Abraham is, once again, being fulfilled.
Now, this will happen after he dies, and he will “establish” it: “I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom.”
Now, clearly this involves, at the surface level, first of all Solomon, who is to come. Because we’re only going to read on in a couple of chapters, and we’ll immediately be there. So, we understand that. But once again, there is a deeper dimension to the promise. And it will explode the boundaries, if you like, of any physical entity or any geographical place. Because as time passes, this actually outgrows the capacity of any mere human being to actually fulfill it. Because it is increasingly becoming larger than life. How is this going to be that so many people will be involved, the security will be such, and so on? There would have to be a succession through every descendant producing a male heir, or there would need to be a descendant born who would never die. That is the only way it could be accomplished. And, of course, reading from the back, we know that is exactly how it is to be accomplished: that in the Lord Jesus Christ, the promise will be fulfilled.
Now, this is the explanation for how he’s going to make a house for David. And again, you need to constantly allow yourself to fall into the text here, where it moves, even in the one verse, from one point to another. In due course—verse 13—Solomon will “build a house for my name.” He will “build a house for my name.” Now, we’re familiar with people’s names being on houses. I don’t know, I haven’t been downtown for a while, but is the Hanna Building still there? That was somebody’s name, I guess. Some of you have been to the Trump Tower, which we’re not gonna talk much about.
But what is being said here is that the temple that will be built by Solomon has, if you like, God’s name on it. It is the place that will be identified as the place of prayer, as the place where the tribes come and gather as they make their ascent up into Jerusalem and as they say to one another, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” That is what is being referenced here. And that actually is pretty well where it’s left. And nothing more is said about that, about that temple, in the rest of the seventh chapter. And, of course, as we know, the temple finally collapsed. But the kingdom that God builds will stand and grow forever; it is an unending kingdom.
And once again, you see that in the space of the one verse: “He [will] build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” Who’s the “his”? Who is the “he” in these things? It’s not a particular individual. It’s the “he” of the succession of the kings, the one who comes next and comes next and comes next. And as I say, unlike the kingdom of Saul, which was to crumble on account of his disobedience, the kingdom that he will establish for David’s offspring will last forever.
Now, in the fourteenth verse, in the second half of it, you have this statement that causes some difficulty. How can it be that we can, in the midst of all of this, say of one of these successive kings, “When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes” and so on? Well, the fact of the matter is that if you read on, you know that the succession of kings were not faultless by any standards at all. And David himself within a few chapters will give evidence of the same. And as we ponder this, we realize that there was only one who would finally be absolutely perfect, and he would be the Son of whom the Father says, “In him I am well pleased.”
Now, what is being said here is simply this: “As we go through this program, as kings will come and kings will go, there will be good kings and bad kings, and those who are guilty of disobedience, I will deal with them.” That’s what the Lord is saying. “I’ll deal with them through the human structures of time, it would appear. And in doing that, you should know that I will never, however, reject my promise to the line of David to bring it to fulfillment.” So, in other words, in terms of Philippians 1, he who has begun a good work in him will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. The fact that along the journey there will be those who are in need of correction and so on is plain to see.
Now, I hope that you can grapple with that. That’s the best I can do with it. What are we to do, though, with the earlier part of the verse, 14? “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.”
Now, once again, this is where our understanding of what has gone before helps us. And you will recall, I think, that the relationship between the Lord and his people Israel was the relationship of father and son. Now, just so that you don’t think I’m making it up, then, in Exodus 4, when the word is given to go to Pharaoh: “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles … I[’ve] put in your power’” and so on. “‘Then you [will] say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son.”’” “Israel is my firstborn son.” So the descendants of Abraham are his firstborn son, “and you must go to him and tell Pharaoh that the relationship that I have with them is a father-son relationship. I have chosen them, they belong to me, and they know that they are to love me and that they are to obey me.” That is the covenant that he established with them, initiated by God and promised by God. And so they belong to God. And in belonging to God, then obedience and love for God is to be the evidence that they are actually members of the family, that they are offspring.
Now, then, what is the point? Well, it is at least this: that just as Israel was God’s son, so now the offspring of David is described in the same way. And that’s why I read earlier from Psalm 2. And we could equally well have read, for example, from Psalm 89:26, for those of you who ever take notes: “My faithfulness and my steadfast love shall be with him…” (This is actually speaking of his servant David, mentioned in Psalm 89:20.)
and in my name shall his horn be exalted.
I will set his hand on the sea
… his right hand on the rivers.
[And] he shall cry to me, “You are my Father,
my God, and the Rock of my salvation.”
And I will make him the firstborn,
the highest of the kings of the earth.
Now, at least we need to understand this: that God’s great promises to Abraham concerning Israel are now being applied to the king of Israel descended from David. All right? So the descendants of David as the great king, God’s people, will be God’s sons because their King is God’s Son.
Now, I’m not anywhere good enough to have picked this up, but I am phenomenally grateful to our dear friend, whom we long to meet, John Woodhouse. If your Bible is open, you turn back a page to 2 Samuel 5:1, and Woodhouse makes this profound observation in relationship to that, the idea of father and of son and the relationship that is interwoven. “Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, ‘Behold, we are your bone and flesh.’” And Woodhouse observes, “The bond between king and people is such that the people are included in the relationship between the king and God.” “The bond between king and people is such that the people are included in the relationship between the king and God.” Sometimes when we sing that song, we sing that line “One with himself I cannot die.”
Now, let me take a slight left-hand turn, but I think it’s important to do this, for us to just pause for a moment and consider what we’re reading here in light of Galatians—and not the whole book of Galatians but just a couple of sections; Galatians 3:7–9, and then a couple of more verses. I just want to read them to you. And Paul is writing to these believers, and he is explaining to them in verse 6 that “just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness,’ in the same way, you have believed God.” In fact, he’s writing to the Galatians here, but in his letter to the Romans and in chapter 4, he addresses that directly. We won’t go to it now, but his point is very straightforward: he’s saying the righteousness that Abraham knew was not a righteousness on account of anything he had done. It was not a reward for anything. God had called him out, God had made him his own, God had promised him, God had covenanted with him, and so on. And the righteousness that he enjoyed was an imputed righteousness. It was credited to him. Credited to him on the basis of what? On the basis of the work of Christ on the cross.
And so he says to the church at Rome, “And the righteousness that is yours is not a righteousness that has come to you by way of the law, but it is a righteousness that has come through faith in Jesus Christ. It is the same righteousness.” All of the sons of God, all of the vast company that are as vast as the sand on the seashore and as the stars in the sky, they will all stand amazed in presence of Jesus—the Old Testament saints and the New Testament saints and every tribe and every language—and they will say, “We stand amazed in your presence, Lord Jesus, that you would bear our sin, that you would grant to us such a great salvation.”
Now that’s the point, you see. And here in this Galatians section… I got a little off there with verse 6. I didn’t mean to. You got that for free. But in verse 7: “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying…” Now, how did he preach the gospel to him? He said to him, “In you shall all the nations [of the earth] be blessed.” On account of what? On account of God’s electing love. And “so then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” Now, if you just stay in chapter 3, and then go to—where?—26: “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There[’s] neither Jew nor Greek, there[’s] neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Now, clearly—and this is again coming back to this morning and the process of interpretation—he is not saying that there are no Jewish people and no Greek people. He’s not saying that there are people who are employed and there are others who are employers. He’s not saying that there are no men and no women. He’s saying that in the vastness of the purposes of God, those distinctions, which are realistic distinctions, are ultimately lost sight of in the reality of God’s amazing grace. And then, in verse 29: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” What promise? The promise that was first made to Abraham. The promise that then took on a dimension as it is reinforced in being made to David. This promise will find in its fulfillment a King who comes, a King who will out-king all the kings who have ever lived.
So what does this mean? Well, it means at least this: that the church—the Church, big C –the church consists of restored or spiritual Israel. Let’s put it that way: spiritual Israel. In other words, Christian Jews. The church is made up… Think about the beginning of the church. Who are these people? They’re not gentiles. They’re Jews. So the church comprises restored spiritual Israel, if you like, and, along with that, converted gentiles who are then privileged to share in Israel’s blessings.
Now, if—and I’m gonna leave it at that—but if you start to think of it that way round rather than the other way around, as it is often put—like, “We are in charge, the gentiles are in charge of the whole thing. What a shame that the Jews got messed up, and maybe one day we can all talk to them again and they’ll come back.” No, no, no, no, no! We got it upside down here. No! In the amazing work of God, the community of faith is a mysterious community. And as I said this morning, it is a mystery. And the mystery is that the gentiles are fellow heirs.
That’s a mystery! The mystery is not that probably there will be a wholesale turning of Jewish people to faith in Jesus Christ before the Messiah returns. I certainly hope and pray to that end. I have no basis for saying it other than the longing of my own heart. But the mystery is that the gentiles are fellow heirs, they’re members of the same body, and they’re partakers of the same promise that is in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Do you remember what we just said? “And Abraham had the gospel preached to him.” So fantastic! It really is magnificent.
And as I said this morning about what is later helping with what is former: “When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the [Holy] Spirit [of God].” So in other words, as God’s revelation proceeds, the people are able to turn back around and say, “Oh so that’s what that is. That’s what it is. What a mystery, that the gentiles would be involved in the blessings of Abraham!”
Incidentally, you see what happens to you if you get this as a Y in the road? You read your Bible like this, and you say, “All the blessings to Abraham, that’s for Jewish people. They’re all going to be somewhere in their own place, you know—for a period of time, at least.” No, they’re not. No. The mystery is that the gentiles are partakers of the promised blessings to Abraham, which are reinforced and advanced in a promise to David.
Well, we need to stop. But let’s just end, then… Basically, we’re meandering around. This is what God is doing: a house and a kingdom and a throne. And a throne. And this throne, as we have been singing and thinking now for a couple of weeks, is forever: “Your throne [will] be established forever.”
Now, what do we know from reading our Bibles? We know that the time would come when David’s kingdom would be destroyed. You read on in your Bible, and that’s what we discover. Now the kingdom is divided, and now there is the kingdom of Israel, and then there is the kingdom of Judah. And I daren’t delay on this, but you can read in 2 Kings for yourself. If you want to follow the line with the kingdom of Israel, then go to 2 Kings chapter 17; you want to follow the line with Judah, then go to 2 Kings chapter 25. And you will discover there that in the former case, it is the Assyrians that come in and destroy them, and in the second case, it is the Babylonians that come in and destroy them.
Now, think about this for a moment. You’re now living in that generation. And somebody’s been reading the Old Testament to you—your grandpa. And your grandpa is explaining, “And the throne of David will last forever.” And the bright ten-year-old says, “Well, that’s a fine story if ever I heard one. Because I can’t see any evidence of any great kingdom or of any great king. The whole thing looks as though it has collapsed like a broken deck chair.”
Now, if you doubt that that was the kind of thing that was going on, then you’ll need to read for your homework in Psalm 89. Because in Psalm 89, you have this great lament in relationship to what I’ve just described. And this is what the people say:
How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?
How long will your wrath burn like fire?
Remember how short my time is!
“I’m only gonna live here for a wee while.”
For what vanity you have created all the children of man!
What man can live and never see death?
Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol?
Lord, where is your steadfast love of old,
which by your faithfulness you swore to David?
Remember, O Lord, how your servants are mocked,
and how I bear in my heart the insults of all the many nations,
with which your enemies mock, O Lord,
with which they mock the footsteps of your anointed.
That’s the lament with which the psalm ends. But do you know what the context is for the beginning of the psalm? It begins, “I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness [for] generations.”
Do you get it? “It looks like the whole thing has collapsed. How can we be sure that it hasn’t?” Because of the covenant love of God: “I will keep my covenant with you. I will be your God, and you will be my people. And sometimes when you step out of line, I’ll have to come and deal with you. But I’m only gonna deal with you because I love you, and because I have pledged myself to you, and because I’m going to bring finally to completion the promises that I have made not only to David but to Abraham too.”
And it is in that context of lament that you then find the prophets speaking up. And in that time, goodness, you need a prophet, don’t you? You need somebody to step up and say something. I mean, at the moment I feel like I’ve been given the role of a prophet in one regard. I mean, I find myself saying on a daily basis, “Excuse me, do you know that the Lord God omnipotent reigns? Do you know that ‘there is a higher throne’? Please don’t talk to me again about stacking the Supreme Court. I understand it politically. Do you understand that ‘there is a higher throne than all this world has known’? Do you know this, you see?”
We’re just saying this to the people of God. Because the people of God are like in the lament at the end of Psalm 89: “Lord, where have you been? What are you doing? It doesn’t look like anything will be fulfilled.” History repeats itself. And what Isaiah… I imagine his wife saying, “What did you write this morning?” And he says, “Well, I’m not sure about it all, but I wrote this down: ‘There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from [its] roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.’” And she said, “What does that mean?” And he said, “Well, I’m not sure myself. But I think it’s very good.” And, of course, it was very good.
And the government [will] be upon his shoulder,
and his name [will] be called
Wonderful Counselor, [the] Mighty God,
[the] Everlasting Father, [the] Prince of Peace.
[And] of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end…
Here we go!
[And] on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice … with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
And how is that gonna happen? “The zeal of the Lord of hosts,” the God of heaven’s armies, will accomplish it. That’s the point!
And so, here are these people. The great promise of the kingdom, it collapses before their very eyes. They’re trying to make their way through life. And the prophet steps up, and he says, “Here we are. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Have you forgotten about 2 Samuel 7?” he says. “There’s more to come. There’s another place. There’s another name. There’s another rest. There’s another kingdom. There’s another throne. It’s all fulfilled in Jesus.”
No, the house that he has built that bears his name is not a temple in Jerusalem but his church: “I will build my church. I will build my house. And the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” The temple—please, do not keep on about the temple and the Temple Mount and the Muslims and get yourself all messed up with that stuff. The temple was a shadow of the reality that was to come. It’s not about Jerusalem in the Middle East. It is about the new Jerusalem. Jerusalem was simply a shadow, a pointer on the journey to the end.
And that’s why Paul, when he writes, says to the Corinthians, “For we are the temple of the living God; [for] God [says]”—and he’s quoting Leviticus, interestingly—“God [says], ‘I will make my dwelling among them …, and I will be their God.’” Isn’t this quite amazing? God says to David, “I don’t want you to build a place for me. I’ve never had one, I’ve never needed one, and I’ve never asked for one.” And in actual fact, the temple in Jerusalem was a pointer to the reality of God. But now, “where two or three are gathered [together] in my name, there [I] am,” present in his house. So the promised offspring of David has come. He’s the Son of David. He’s the Son of Abraham. The eternal kingdom has begun. And he will reign forever and forever.
Now, this has to translate itself into the reality of tomorrow and everyday life; otherwise, it’s just an exercise in studying an old book. This does impact your politics. This does impact your understanding of geography. This actually shapes your view of history. The decisions you make about this 2 Samuel 7 have a phenomenal impact, way beyond any considerations that are sort of in-house discussions about the nature of eschatology or whatever it might be. And when we understand it, then it will help us.
We’ll finish in this way. When I used to visit for Derek Prime, many of the people that I visited were infirm. Many of them were in nursing home facilities and so on. And I’ve told you before that I once said to my boss, I said, “Hey, you know, Mrs. So-and-So never even opens her eyes, y’know. Why do I have to go and see her?” And he said, “Well, you remember that Jesus said, ‘Inasmuch as you do it to the least of one of these my brethren, you do it to me.’” And I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Well then, that’s why you go. It’s a ministry to Christ.”
But one of those ladies had had a stroke. It had affected her speech profoundly. She was actually the sister-in-law of one of our elders, a man called Mr. Behren—very godly little man. And I used to go and visit this lady, and she wanted to sing. But she couldn’t barely speak. But the song that she wanted was a song that goes like this:
We are building day by day,
As the moments pass away,
A temple that this world cannot see;
And every victory won by grace
Will be sure to find a place
In that building for eternity.
And I thought to myself, “She can’t even form the words nor get the melody.” But in her heart, somebody must have really helped her get a grip of 2 Samuel 7, because she, in those untoward circumstances, was actually believing the promise. Believing it.
And I say to myself and to you again: Do you believe this, in a sitting-down way, trusting your entire destiny on Jesus as the King, as the one who has borne our sins, as the one who is raised victorious over it, as the one who is at the right hand of the Father, and he will return in power and in great glory? And what an event that will be.
Well… [Congregation member: “Amen!”] Yeah, all right. Yeah. Yeah, that’s my… Yeah, we got it. Yeah, thanks, sister. Yeah, that’s my cheerleader section over there. It’s very small, but it’s good. Yeah, just a brief prayer:
Father, oh, we just offer ourselves up to you. Grant that what is understandable and clear may find a place in our reckoning, and anything that just adds confusion to the story, that we might have the grace of forgetting all about it. We thank you that Jesus is the King of Kings, that he is the one who is “robed in majesty,” and we marvel that he would grant to us to wear a robe of righteousness which we could never earn but only receive as a gift of grace. And so, bless us as we end our time now in song. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
 Sanford Fillmore Bennett, “In the Sweet By and By” (1868).
 Genesis 13:16 (ESV).
 See Revelation 7:9.
 Psalm 122:1 (ESV).
 Matthew 3:17; 17:5; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22 (paraphrased).
 See Philippians 1:6.
 Exodus 4:21–22 (ESV).
 Psalm 89:24–27 (ESV).
 2 Samuel 5:1 (ESV).
 John Woodhouse, 2 Samuel: Your Kingdom Come, Preaching the Word, ed. R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015), 218.
 Charitie L. Bancroft, “Before the Throne of God Above” (1863).
 Galatians 3:6 (paraphrased).
 Romans 3:21–22 (paraphrased).
 Ephesians 3:4–5 (ESV).
 Psalm 89:46–51 (ESV).
 Psalm 89:1 (ESV).
 Keith Getty and Kristyn Getty, “There Is a Higher Throne” (2003).
 Isaiah 11:1–2 (ESV).
 Isaiah 9:6 (KJV).
 Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:15 (ESV).
 Psalm 2:6 (paraphrased).
 Isaiah 9:6–7 (ESV).
 Matthew 16:18 (paraphrased).
 2 Corinthians 6:16 (ESV).
 Matthew 18:20 (ESV).
 Matthew 25:40 (paraphrased).
 Fanny J. Crosby, “We Are Building.” Lyrics lightly altered.
 Psalm 93:1 (ESV).
 See Isaiah 61:10.
Copyright © 2021, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.