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Seeing Christ in the Davidic Covenant (Lesson 8.9)

Finally, God's blessings flow to His people IN CHRIST ALONE. Grace is precious, but it doesn't exist apart from Christ. And faith is what God requires, but it means nothing if it's not in Christ. The faith that saves is not just faith in anything; nor is it a faith in God in general; but faith in Jesus. Earlier, we looked at the various promises God had given to David in 2 Samuel 7, and how they were fulfilled in Christ. Here, we're going to look at a few other ways we're pointed to Jesus in the Davidic Covenant. In particular: We also learn truths about the PERSON, the HEADSHIP, and the REIGN of Christ.

1) THE PERSON OF CHRIST: In the promises of 2 Samuel 7, most of the emphasis is on the fact that the Messiah would come forth from David. The Messiah would come into the world as one of David's offspring, and for that reason he would be called the Son of David. We did see in 2 Samuel 7:14 that the Lord also spoke of this particular son of David, saying: “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me. . .” But what exactly did this mean? If this was all that God had said, His people might have been left confused. Thankfully, the Lord made it clear elsewhere exactly what He meant.

Psalm 45 is written as a song of celebration for a royal wedding. The groom set to marry was a great king in Israel (and most likely Solomon himself). But in the midst of this Psalm, we read something we're not necessarily expecting. Addressing the groom himself, the Psalmist declares: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of joy above Your fellows.” (vv6-7). Notice that in verse 7, the Psalmist tells us that this royal king had been anointed by God, but in verse 6 the Psalmist is telling us that this royal king himself was God. How do we make sense of it? The Psalmist is looking past this particular son of David and speaking of the Greater Son of David yet to come, whose kingdom shall be forever. And he's helping us understand that the coming Messiah would be none other than God himself. The author of Hebrews quotes this passage, together with the other passage from 2 Samuel 7:14, and helps us to see both as referring to Christ (1:8-9). And so, Psalm 45:6-7 helps to unlock for us a vital truth about the Messiah's identity: He would come into the world as a man. But He would also come into the world as God himself.1

Psalm 110 is the most quoted Psalm in the New Testament (see Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42-43; Acts 2:34-35; and Hebrews 1:13). And it's this Psalm that Jesus alludes back to in order to help people understand His identity. The scribes understood well from 2 Samuel 7 that the Messiah would come into the world as the Son of David; that is, as a descendant of David. So far so good; but Jesus had a question for them. We read in Mark 12:35-37: “And Jesus began to say, as He taught in the temple, 'How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself said in the Holy Spirit, “The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at My right hand, until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet.'” David himself calls him 'Lord'; so in what sense is He his son?” Here, Jesus is referring back to Psalm 110:1; and He's challenging the notions of the scribes. What the Savior is drawing out here is that the Messiah wouldn't just be David's son—he would be his Lord. In other words, David wouldn't just bring him into the world—David would owe him his allegiance. And further, if David, in his lifetime, is quoting a conversation that had already taken place between God and the Messiah, the implication is that though the Messiah would later come from David; yet somehow that Messiah had already existed before David. So then: In Psalm 110, God the Father is speaking to God the Son. If 2 Samuel 7 sets forth the Messiah as the son of David; Psalm 110 sets him forth as the Son of God.2

The prophet Isaiah also spoke of these truths. As He prophesied about the coming Davidic King, he used the imagery of a branch to help us understand the true identity of the Messiah. In Isaiah 11:1, we read: “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him. . .” Here, Isaiah is telling us that the Messiah would come as a descendant of David: The Christ would sprout forth from Jesse, just as a branch sprouts forth from the root. But later in the same chapter, Isaiah goes on to prophesy in verse 10: “Then in that day the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, who will stand as a signal for the peoples; and His resting place will be glorious.” In verse 1, Jesse was the root and the Messiah was the branch. But now in verse 10 it's the Messiah who is the root of Jesse! What do we make of this? In verse 1, Isaiah is emphasizing how it is that the Christ would come (it would be through David's line). But in verse 10, the prophet is helping us understand who it is the Christ would be. Yes, he would come forth from David (verse 1). But He also existed long before David (verse 10). In one sense He would come as the branch of David; but in another sense, David was the branch who had his life and existence in Him. In verse 1, we see Jesus' humanity; in verse 11, his divinity. As He himself tells us in Revelation 22:16: “I, Jesus, have sent Me angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” The Christ would come as a man; but also as God in the flesh.3

The angel Gabriel told Mary in Luke 1:31-32, “you will. . .bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.” The Messiah would be the Son of David, but also the Son of God. He would have David as a father, but He would also be the Son of the Most High. He would come as a man, yes; but He would also come as God himself into the world. Gabriel's words were precious, but his message wasn't anything new. This is what the Scriptures had been teaching from the beginning.

2) THE HEADSHIP OF CHRIST: Another way we're pointed to Christ in the Davidic Covenant is by getting glimpses of His covenant headship. In past lessons, we've talked about this at some length. Here, we see Christ's headship set forth in pictures from Scripture as well as in passages of Scripture.

A) Seeing Christ's headship in PICTURES from Scripture: David is often set forth as a type of Christ as the covenant head of His people. Examples abound, but here we'll just focus on two in particular:

I) DAVID and SAUL: Earlier we talked briefly about the decline of King Saul and David's ascension to the throne. We saw that Saul was a natural born leader, but he stopped listening to God. We're baffled by Saul. How did he start out so well and yet end up like he did? Another thing that may be a bit baffling to us is the severity of punishment Saul receives for not waiting for Samuel. He waits for nearly the entire seven days for Samuel to come, but at the last minute decides to offer the sacrifice when it seemed Samuel may have been delayed (1 Samuel 13:8-10). It's just afterwards that Samuel arrives; and when he does, he has this to say to Saul: “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, for now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not endure. . .” (vv13-14).

Isn't this a bit extreme? Does the punishment really fit the crime? And more importantly, is this the way God deals with us now in the Covenant of Grace? Is Saul's sin meant to teach us that if we fail to keep the Lord's commands perfectly as Saul did, God will likewise turn away from us and revoke the blessings He's given to us? No; after all, the Lord told David explicitly in 2 Samuel 7:14-15 that He would not remove His lovingkindness from David's sons as He had removed it from Saul. But what do we make of Saul? I believe Saul's sin and punishment are set forth before us as a reenactment of Adam's sin and punishment in the garden. If we compare the two accounts, we find that the story of Saul's downfall is astonishingly similar to the fall of Adam: 1) Saul was given a single command as a test, just as Adam was (1 Samuel 10:8; 13:13-14; cf. Genesis 2:16-17). 2) At face value, that command seemed a light or trivial thing, as perhaps God's command to Adam in the garden. 3) But later we learn that the command God had given Saul carried enormous consequences—just as with Adam (Romans 5:12)--for when Saul disobeys, his whole kingdom is torn away (13:13-14). 4) Samuel comes to Saul with the same words God had spoken to Adam: “What have you done?” (13:11; cf. Genesis 3:13). And just like Adam, Saul's response is to blame others for his sin (13:11; cf. Genesis 3:12).4

Saul's sin is being set before us as a reenactment of the sin of the first Adam. But just as Saul is a type of the first Adam, so too David is set before us as a type of the second Adam. David was a man after God's heart; but he was also a type of Christ: David was from the town of Bethlehem, the same place where Christ would be born. He was anointed by Samuel, the last of the Judges, for his kingly task; in a similar way to how Jesus was baptized by John, the last of the Prophets, at the beginning of His ministry. He was chosen by God to reign over all Israel, and yet his own brothers hated him without cause; as it was with Christ. For David too, the path to the crown would be laced with sufferings. But the Lord had chosen David to reign, and in due time He would crush all his enemies under his feet. So then, just like Adam in the garden, Saul transgressed the command of the Lord. But when Israel's first king disobeyed, the Lord raised up a second king for His people; this time it would be different. This king would follow the Lord fully where the first had turned away and rebelled. For, “After [the Lord] had removed [Saul], He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a man. . .who will do all My will.” (Acts 13:22).5

II) DAVID AND GOLIATH: Often, the story of David and Goliath is taught in such a way that we are encouraged to be like David and step out in faith. We're exhorted to be bold like David and take a stand for God; to look around at the Goliath's in our society, in the church, or in our personal lives and charge the battle field without fear. But it's only as we understand David as a type of Christ that we begin to see what this passage is really about. This account is in 1 Samuel 17. This is important because Saul's disobedience was still fresh; it was just two chapters earlier where Samuel had said his final goodbye to king Saul. We watched Saul fall from God. Like Adam before him, he transgressed the command of the Lord. So now, here comes Goliath, and it seems as though he's coming against God's people with a sword of justice. Their covenant representative has sinned; and it seems that this must be the day of reckoning. God's people were helpless and hopeless before their enemy. Their fallen king couldn't help them; and they couldn't help themselves. Goliath totally owned them.

But just when it seemed there was no hope, something happened. A father sent his son to his own kinsmen, to seek their welfare. Saul's kingdom was formally torn away from him in 1 Samuel 15; but God sent Samuel to anoint David as the new king over His people in 1 Samuel 16. Saul and his men were totally paralyzed before Goliath; so David single-handedly ran to the battle line; this was a battle he would fight alone. David fought against Goliath and conquered. And after David cut off his head, we read in 17:52, “The men of Israel and Judah arose and shouted and pursued the Philistines. . .” It was David alone who defeated Goliath; but when he did it meant victory for all God's people. And this is what Christ has done for us: We were ruined in Adam; but we conquer now because of Jesus.6

B) Seeing Christ's headship in PASSAGES of Scripture: We see this principle of covenant headship not only through types and pictures but also explicitly in particular passages in the Davidic Covenant:

I) SOLOMON'S FAILURE: Earlier we refuted certain Scriptures that seemed to imply the Davidic Covenant was conditional on Solomon's obedience or the obedience of his sons. We showed that in these passages, the Lord was speaking about His Church as a whole. But in some of these passages, Scripture is also setting forth the principle of covenant headship. The Lord tells Solomon in 1 Kings 6:12-13, “if you will walk in My statutes and execute My ordinances and keep all My commandments by walking in them, then I will carry out My word with you which I spoke to David your father. I will dwell among the sons of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.” Here, the entire well-being of God's people seems to be contingent on the obedience of one man. What do we make of it? It's the same principle of covenant headship: “the consequences aren't just for Solomon. Because of this one man's disobedience, the nation will be torn in two. While Solomon kept the covenant, the people were blessed. When Solomon rebels, disaster falls on his whole people.” Why? Because Solomon wasn't just any person; as the king, he was the covenant representative of God's people. And so when Solomon failed, we're pointed back once again to Adam's failure in the garden. Solomon's headship over Israel is meant to echo back to Adam's headship over all humanity; Solomon's disobedience is another reenactment of the disobedience of Adam. When he sinned, disaster came upon them all.7

II) DAVID'S REWARD: If Solomon echoes back to Adam, then David echoes forward to Christ. There's a passage in 1 Kings 15 that describes the failures of one of the kings of Judah (Abijam). And yet, right after outlining all the ways he went wrong, Scripture tells us in verses 4-5: “But for David's sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, to raise up his son after him and to establish Jerusalem, because David did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.” If Solomon gave us a glimpse of a covenant representative in his disobedience, David gives us a glimpse of one who through his obedience merits the favor of God on behalf of the people. We're reminded even in this verse that David wasn't perfect. The point isn't that it was actually David's obedience that secured God's blessing for His people. The point is that David is meant to echo us forward to Christ. David's obedience was flawed. But it's meant to point us forward to the perfect, spotless, obedience of the Greater David yet to come. It's the same truth we've seen all along. Back in Genesis 7:1, we saw that Noah's household was saved from the flood because of Noah's righteousness. Then later, in Genesis 22:18 we saw that all the nations of the earth would be blessed because Abraham obeyed the voice of the Lord. All these passages convey the same truth. Noah, Abraham, and David all point us forward to the obedience of Christ. Their obedience was simply meant to echo forward to His.8

We saw above there are certain Scriptures that seem to imply that the well-being of Israel completely hinged upon the obedience of David's son. In a sense, that's true. But the question is: Which son is really intended? Because Solomon did fail. But the Greater Son of David would triumph. So, “the role of Jesus Christ as the ultimate seed of David speaks. . .decisively to this question of conditionality in the covenant. It may be affirmed as emphatically true that David's covenant hinged conditionally on the responsible fulfillment of covenant obligations by Jesus Christ, the seed of David. He satisfied in himself all the obligations of the covenant. . .In Christ, the conditional and the certain aspects of the covenant meet in perfect harmony. In him the Davidic covenant finds assured fulfillment.”9

3) THE REIGN OF CHRIST: A third way that we see Christ in the Davidic Covenant is by noticing how Scripture speaks about the different stages of his kingship. Through both the prophecies David penned and in the pattern of his own life and reign, we come to learn much about the reign of Jesus.

A) Learning about Christ's reign from the PROPHECIES of David's psalms: We trust in Jesus today by looking back in history to what He did and believing. But David actually looked forward to Christ with the eyes of faith and trusted in the One who was yet to come. And as he looked ahead and saw Jesus, he also wrote about him. David wrote a good deal about Christ's HUMILIATION: In Psalm 8:4-6, he looks forward to the incarnation when he sees that the Messiah would, for a time, humble himself to a place lower than the angels (Hebrews 2:6-9). And prophesying again of the incarnation, David foresees the Christ declaring, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me” (Psalm 40:7; cf. Hebrews 10:5-9). David also prophesies much of the sufferings that