We have here the solemn address David made to God, in answer to the gracious message God had sent him. We are not told what he said to Nathan; no doubt he received him very kindly and respectfully as God’s messenger. But his answer to God he took himself, and did not send by Nathan. When ministers deliver God’s message to us, it is not to them, but to God, that our hearts must reply; he understands the language of the heart, and to him we may come boldly. David had no sooner received the message than, while the impressions of it were fresh, he retired to return an answer. Observe,
I. The place he retired to: He went in before the Lord, that is, into the tabernacle where the ark was, which was the token of God’s presence; before that he presented himself. God’s will now is that men pray everywhere; but, wherever we pray, we must set ourselves as before the Lord and set him before us.
II. The posture he put himself into: He sat before the Lord. 1. It denotes the posture of his body. Kneeling or standing is certainly the most proper gesture to be used in prayer; but the Jews, from this instance, say, “It was allowed to the kings of the house of David to sit in the temple, and to no other.” But this will by no means justify the ordinary use of that gesture in prayer, whatever may be allowed in a case of necessity. David went in, and took his place before the Lord, so it may be read; but, when he prayed, he stood up as the manner was. Or he went in and continued before the Lord, staid some time silently meditating, before he began his prayer, and then remained longer than usual in the tabernacle. Or, 2. It may denote the frame of his spirit at this time. He went in, and composed himself before the Lord; thus we should do in all our approaches to 3f38 God. O God, my heart is fixed, my heart is fixed.
III. The prayer itself, which is full of the breathings of pious and devout affection towards God.
1. He speaks very humbly of himself and his own merits. So he begins as one astonished: Who am I, O Lord God! and what is my house? 2 Sam. 7:18. God had reminded him of the meanness of his original (2 Sam. 7:8) and he subscribed to it; he had low thoughts, (1.) Of his personal merits: Who am I? He was upon all accounts a very considerable and valuable man. His endowments both of body and mind were extraordinary. His gifts and graces were eminent. He was a man of honour, success, and usefulness, the darling of his country and the dread of its enemies. Yet, when he comes to speak of himself before God, he says, “Who am I? A man not worth taking notice of.” (2.) Of the merits of his family: What is my house? His house was of the royal tribe, and descended from the prince of that tribe; he was allied to the best families of the country, and yet, like Gideon, thinks his family poor in Judah and himself the least in his father’s house, Jdg. 6:15. David thus humbled himself when Saul’s daughter was proposed to him for a wife (1 Sam. 18:18), but now with much more reason. Note, It very well becomes the greatest and best of men, even in the midst of the highest advancements, to have low and mean thoughts of themselves; for the greatest of men are worms, the best are sinners, and those that are highest advanced have nothing but what they have received: “What am I, that thou hast brought me hitherto, brought me to the kingdom, and to a settlement in it, and rest from all my enemies?” It intimates that he could not have reached this himself by his own management, if God had not brought him to it. All our attainments must be looked upon as God’s vouchsafements.
2. He speaks very highly and honourably of God’s favours to him. (1.) In what he had done for him: “Thou hast brought me hitherto, to this great dignity and dominion. Hitherto thou hast helped me.” Though we should be left at uncertainty concerning further mercy, we have great reason to be thankful for that which has been done for us hitherto, Acts 26:22. (2.) In what he had yet further promised him. God had done great things for him already, and yet, as if those had been nothing, he had promised to do much more, 2 Sam. 7:19. Note, What God has laid out upon his people is much, but what he has laid up for them is infinitely more, Ps. 31:19. The present graces and comforts of the saints are invaluable gifts; and yet, as if these were too little for God to bestow upon his children, he has spoken concerning them for a great while to come, even as far as eternity itself reaches. Of this we must own, as David here, [1.] That it is far beyond what we could expect: Isa. this the manner of men? that is, First, Can man expect to be so dealt with by his Maker? Isa. this the law of Adam? Note, Considering what the character and condition of man are, it is very surprising and amazing that God should deal with him as he does. Man is a mean creature, and therefore under a law of distance—unprofitable to God, and therefore under a law of disesteem and disregard—guilty and obnoxious, and therefore under a law of death and damnation. But how unlike are God’s dealings with man to this law of Adam! He is brought near to God, purchased at a high rate, taken into covenant and communion with God; could this ever have been thought of? Secondly, Do men usually deal thus with one another? No, the way of our God is far above the manner of men. Though he be high, he has respect to the lowly; and is this the manner of men? Though he is offended by us, he beseeches us to be reconciled, waits to be gracious, multiplies his pardons: and is this the manner of men? Some give another sense of this, reading it thus: And this is the law of man, the Lord Jehovah, that is, “This promise of one whose kingdom shall be established for ever must be understood of one that is a man and yet the Lord Jehovah, this must be the law of such a one. A Messiah from my loins must be man, but, reigning for ever, must be God.” [2.] That beyond this there is nothing we can desire: “And what can David say more unto thee? 2 Sam. 7:20. What can I ask or wish for more? Thou, Lord, knowest thy servant, knowest what will make me happy, and what thou hast promised is enough to do so.” The promise of Christ includes all. If that man, the Lord God, be ours, what can we ask or think of more? Eph. 3:20. The promises of the covenant of grace are framed by him that knows us, and therefore knows how to adapt them to every branch of our necessity. He knows us better than we know ourselves; and therefore let us be satisfied with the provision he has made for us. What can we say more for ourselves in our prayers than he has said for us in his promises?
3. He ascribes all to the free grace of God (2 Sam. 7:21), both the great things he had done for him and the great things he had made known to him. All was, (1.) For his word’s sake, that is, for the sake of Christ the eternal Word; it is all owing to his merit. Or, “That thou mayest magnify thy word of promise above all thy name, in making it the stay and store-house of thy people.” (2.) According to thy own heart, thy gracious counsels and designs, ex mero motu—of thy own good pleasure. Even so, Father, because it seemed good in thy eyes. All that God does for his people in his providences, and secures to them in his promises, is for his pleasure and for his praise, the pleasure of his will and the praise of his word.
4. He adores the greatness and glory of God (2 Sam. 7:22): Thou art great, O Lord God! for there is none like thee. God’s gracious condescension to him, and the honour he had put upon him, did not at all abate his awful veneration for the divine Majesty; for the nearer any are brought to God the more they see of his glory, and the dearer we are in his eyes the greater he should be in ours. And this we acknowledge concerning God, that there is no being like him, nor any God besides him, and that what we have seen with our eyes of his power and goodness is according to all that we have heard with our ears, and the one half not told us.
5. He expresses a great esteem for the Israel of God, 2 Sam. 7:23, 24. As there was none among the gods to be compared with Jehovah, so none among the nations to be compared with Israel, considering,
(1.) The works he had done for them. He went to redeem them, applied himself to it as a great work, went about it with solemnity. Elohim halecu, dii iveruni—Gods went, as if there was the same consultation and concurrence of all the persons in the blessed Trinity about the work of redemption that there was about the work of creation, when God said, Let us make man. Whom those that were sent of God went to redeem; so the Chaldee, meaning, I suppose, Moses and Aaron. The redemption of Israel, as described here, was typical of our redemption by Christ in that, [1.] They were redeemed from the nations and their gods; so are we from all iniquity and all conformity to this present world. Christ came to save his people from their sins. [2.] They were redeemed to be a peculiar people unto God, purified and appropriated to himself, that he might make himself a great name and do for them great things. The honour of God, and the eternal happiness of the saints, are the two things aimed at in their redemption.
(2.) The covenant he had made with them, 2 Sam. 7:24. It was, [1.] Mutual: “They to be a people to thee, and thou to be a God to them; all their interests consecrated to thee, and all thy attributes engaged for them.” [2.] Immutable: “Thou hast confirmed them.” He that makes the covenant makes it sure and will make it good.
6. He concludes with humble petitions to God. (1.) He grounds his petitions upon the message which God had sent him (2 Sam. 7:27): Thou hast revealed this to thy servant, that is, “Thou hast of thy own good will given me the promise that thou wilt build me a house, else I could never have found in my heart to pray such a prayer as this. I durst not have asked such great things if I had not been directed and encouraged by thy promise to ask them. They are indeed too great for me to beg, but not too great for thee to give. Thy servant has found in his heart to pray this prayer;” so it is in the original, and the LXX. Many, when they go to pray, have their hearts to seek, but David’s heart was found, that is, it was fixed, gathered in from its wanderings, and entirely engaged to the duty and employed in it. That prayer which is found in the tongue only will not please God; it must be found in the heart; the heart must be lifted up and poured out before God. My son, give God thy heart. (2.) He builds his faith and hopes to speed upon the fidelity of God’s promise (2 Sam. 7:25): “Thou art that God (thou art he, even that God, the Lord of hosts, and God of Israel, or that God whose words are true, that God whom one may depend upon); and thou hast promised this goodness unto thy servant, which I am therefore bold to pray for.” (3.) Thence he fetches the matter of his prayer, and refers to that as the guide of his prayers. [1.] He prays for the performance of God’s promise (2 Sam. 7:25): “Let the word be made good to me, on which thou hast caused me to hope (Ps. 119:49) and do as thou hast said; I desire no more, and I expect no less; so full is the promise, and so firm.” Thus we must turn God’s promises into prayers, and then they shall be turned into performances; for, with God, saying and doing are not two things, as they often are with men. God will do as he hath said. [2.] He prays for the glorifying of God’s name (2 Sam. 7:26): Let thy name be magnified for ever. This ought to be the summary and centre of all our prayers, the Alpha and the Omega of them. Begin with Hallowed be thy name, and end with Thine is the glory for ever. “Whether I be magnified or no, let thy name be magnified.” And he reckons that nothing magnifies God’s name more than this, to say, with suitable affections, The Lord of hosts is the God over Israel. This bespeaks the God of Israel gloriously great, that he is the Lord of hosts; and this bespeaks the Lord of hosts gloriously good, that he is God over Israel. In both, let his name be magnified for ever. Let all the creatures and all the churches give him the glory of these two. David desired the performance of God’s promise for the honour, not of his own name, but of God’s. Thus the Son of David prayed, Father, glorify thy name (John 12:28), and (John 17:1), Glorify thy Son, that thy Son may also glorify thee. [3.] He prays for his house, for to that the promise has special reference, First, That it might be happy (2 Sam. 7:29): Let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant; and again, with thy blessing. “Let the house of thy servant be truly and eternally blessed. Those whom thou blessest are blessed indeed.” The care of good men is very much concerning their families; and the best entail on their families is that of the blessing of God. The repetition of this request is not a vain repetition, but expressive of the value he had of the divine blessing, and his earnest desire of it, as all in all to the happiness of his family. Secondly, That the happiness of it might remain: “Let it be established before thee (2 Sam. 7:26); let it continue for ever before thee.” 2 Sam. 7:29. He prayed, 1. That the entail of the crown might not be cut off, but remain in his family, that none of his might ever forfeit it, but that they might walk before God, which would be their establishment. 2. That his kingdom might have its perfection and perpetuity in the kingdom of the Messiah. When Christ for ever sat down on the right hand of God (Heb. 10:12), and received all possible assurance that his seed and throne shall be as the days of heaven, this prayer of David the son of Jesse for his seed was abundantly answered, that it might continue before God for ever. See Ps. 72:17. The perpetuity of the Messiah’s kingdom is the desire and faith of all good people.
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