King David – the Covenant elaborated again
Although God was the Sovereign Lord of Israel, the ‘children of Israel’ became discontent with the Judges that applied the Covenant Law of Sinai. They wanted a human King, and despite Samuel’s protestations to the people, the ‘children of Israel’ insisted and so God granted them a king in form of Saul. Things did not go well with King Saul. However, in due course, David replaced Saul as King and by speaking to David God elaborated the Covenant that he had made with Abraham and Moses further still.
David was living in a palace whilst God was in the ‘Tent of Meeting’, and David declared that this was not right. He wanted to build a more fitting place for God – a Temple. Nathan, a godly associate of David’s, received a revelation from God: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending a flock of sheep, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people shall not oppress them any more, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: when your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever….My love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever”’ (II Samuel 7 v 4 – 16).
God declared that:
David would be a ruler of renown in Israel
The Jews would become established in the land
There would be a time of peace
David’s offspring would build a Temple
A kingdom would be established
The line of David and his kingdom will endure forever
Disobedience would result in punishment, but even if disobedience did occur, the Covenant would not be abolished.
A fulfillment of this Covenant elaboration was announced to Mary, the mother of Jesus: ‘You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end’ (Luke 1 v 31 – 33). It is also referred to in Acts: ‘David said about him: “I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.” ‘Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’” Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah’ (Acts 2 v 25 – 36).
Solomon, the Temple and the restatement of the Covenant
With David as King, Israel entered into a glorious period in its history. On David’s death, his son Solomon, became king and he built the Temple in Jerusalem which was filled with the glory of God in the same way that the Tabernacle or ‘Tent of Meeting’ was filled with the glory of God earlier The Covenant was once again renewed with Solomon: The Lord said to [Solomon]: ‘I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this Temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there for ever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. As for you, if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel for ever, as I promised David your father when I said, “You shall never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.” But if you or your descendants turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple that I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. This Temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, “Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this Temple?” People will answer, “Because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshipping and serving them – that is why the Lord brought all this disaster on them”’(I Kings 9 v 3 – 9).
It was Solomon himself who broke God’s Covenant by being led astray by some of his wives to worship false gods. As a result God warned Solomon that He would tear part of the kingdom from his son: God then raised enemies against Solomon who died after ruling for forty years.
The unified Kingdom divided
When Solomon died some time between 926 and 922 B.C., ten northern tribes of Israel rebelled and refused to submit to his son Rehoboam. Eventually the united Kingdom of Israel split into two with Israel in the north and Judah in the south. At first, only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David, but soon the tribe of Benjamin joined with Judah. In the north, the Israelites made Samaria their capital city, whilst in the south, the Judeans kept their capital in Jerusalem. These two were in a state of constant tension or war with each other (I Kings 14 v 21 – 16 v 28). Within a century of Solomon’s death, the kingdoms of both Israel and Judah were left as tiny states in a region where tiny states did not survive for very long. The Hebrew Kingdoms were of commercial and military importance to the warring powers that surrounded them and they were vulnerable. The two kingdoms remained separate states for over two hundred years although both of them had a litany of ineffective, disobedient and corrupt kings.