We have here a full revelation of God’s favour to David and the kind intentions of that favour, the notices and assurances of which God sent him by Nathan the prophet, whom he entrusted to deliver this long message to him. The design of it is to take him off from his purpose of building the temple and it was therefore sent, 1. By the same hand that had given him encouragement to do it, lest, if it had been sent by any other, Nathan should be despised and insulted and David should be perplexed, being encouraged by one prophet and discouraged by another. 2. The same night, that Nathan might not continue long in an error nor David have his head any further filled with thoughts of that which he must never bring to pass. God might have said this to David himself immediately, but he chose to send it by Nathan, to support the honour of his prophets, and to preserve in David a regard to them. Though he be the head, they must be the eyes by which he must see the visions of the Almighty, and the tongue by which he must hear the word of God. He that delivered this long message to Nathan assisted his memory to retain it, that he might deliver it fully (he being resolved to deliver it faithfully) as he received it of the Lord. Now in this message,
I. David’s purpose to build God a house is superseded. God took notice of that purpose, for he knows what is in man; and he was well pleased with it, as appears 1 Kgs. 8:18; Thou didst well that it was in thy heart; yet he forbade him to go on with his purpose (2 Sam. 7:5): “Shalt thou build me a house? No, thou shalt not (as it is explained in the parallel place, 1 Chron. 17:4); there is other work appointed for thee to do, which must be done first.” David is a man of war, and he must enlarge the borders of Israel, by carrying on their conquests. David is a sweet psalmist, and he must prepare psalms for the use of the temple when it is built, and settle the courses of the Levites; but his son’s genius will better suit for building the house, and he will have a better treasure to bear the charge of it, and therefore let it be reserved for him to do. As every man hath received the gift, so let him minister. The building of a temple was to be a work of time, and preparation made for it; but it was a thing that had never been spoken of till now. God tells him, 1. That hitherto he had never had a house built for him (2 Sam. 7:6), a tabernacle had served hitherto, and it might serve awhile longer. God regards not outward pomp in his service; his presence was as surely with his people when the ark was in a tent as when it was in a temple. David was uneasy that the ark was in curtains (a mean and movable habitation), but God never complained of it as any uneasiness to him. He did not dwell, but walk, and yet fainted not, nor was weary. Christ, like the ark, when here on earth walked in a tent or tabernacle, for he went about doing good, and dwelt not in any house of his own, till he ascended on high, to the mansions above, in his Father’s house, and there he sat down. The church, like the ark, in this world is ambulatory, dwells in a tent, because its present state is both pastoral and military; its continuing city is to come. David, in his psalms, often calls the tabernacle a temple (as Ps. 5:7; 27:4; 29:9; 65:4; 138:2), because it answered the intention of a temple, though it was made but of curtains. Wise and good men value not the show, while they have the substance. David perhaps had more true devotion, and sweeter communion with God, in a house of curtains, than any of his successors in the house of cedar. 2. That he had never given any orders or directions, or the least intimation, to any of the sceptres of Israel, that is, to any of the judges, 1 Chron. 17:6 (for rulers are called sceptres, Ezek. 19:14; the great Ruler is called so, Num. 24:17), concerning the building of the temple, 2 Sam. 7:7. That worship only is acceptable which is instituted; why should David therefore design what God never ordained? Let him wait for a warrant, and then let him do it. Better a tent of God’s appointing than a temple of his own inventing.
II. David is reminded of the great things God had done for him, to let him know that he was a favourite of heaven, though he had not the favour to be employed in this service, as also that God was not indebted to him for his good intentions, but, whatever he did for God’s honour, God was beforehand with him, 2 Sam. 7:8, 9. 1. He had raised him from a very mean and low condition: He took him from the sheep-cote. It is good for those who have come to great preferment to be often reminded of their small beginnings, that they may always be humble and thankful. 2. He had given him success and victory over his enemies (2 Sam. 7:9): “I was with thee whithersoever thou wentest, to protect thee when pursued, to prosper thee when pursuing. I have cut off all thy enemies, that stood in the way of thy advancement and settlement.” 3. He had crowned him not only with power and dominion in Israel, but with honour and reputation among the nations about: I have made thee a great name. He had become famous for his courage, conduct, and great achievements, and was more talked of than any of the great men of his day. A great name is what those who have it have great reason to be thankful for and may improve to good purposes, but what those who have it not have no reason to be ambitious of: a good name is more desirable. A man may pass through the world very obscurely and yet very comfortably.
III. A happy establishment is promised to God’s Israel, 2 Sam. 7:10, 11. This comes in in a parenthesis, before the promises made to David himself, to let him understand that what God designed to do for him was for Israel’s sake, that they might be happy under his administration, and to give him the satisfaction of foreseeing peace upon Israel, when it was promised him that he should see his children’s children, Ps. 128:6. A good king cannot think himself happy unless his kingdom be so. The promises that follow relate to his family and posterity; these therefore, which speak of the settlement of Israel, intend the happiness of his own reign. Two things are promised:—1. A quiet place: I will appoint a place for my people Israel. It was appointed long ago, yet they were disappointed, but now that appointment should be made good. Canaan should be clearly their own without any ejection or molestation. 2. A quiet enjoyment of that place: The children of wickedness (meaning especially the Philistines, who had been so long a plague to them) shall not afflict them any more; but, as in the time that I caused judges to be over my people Israel, I will cause thee to rest from all thy enemies (so 2 Sam. 7:11 may be read), that is, “I will continue and complete that rest; the land shall rest from war, as it did under the judges.”
IV. Blessings are entailed upon the family and posterity of David. David had purposed to build God a house, and, in requital, God promises to build him a house, 2 Sam. 7:11. Whatever we do for God, or sincerely design to do though Providence prevents our doing it, we shall in no wise lose our reward. He had promised to make him a name (2 Sam. 7:9); here he promises to make him a house, which should bear up that name. It would be a great satisfaction to David, while he lived, to have the inviolable assurance of a divine promise that his family should flourish when he was dead. Next to the happiness of our souls, and the church of God, we should desire the happiness of our seed, that those who come of us may be praising God on earth when we are praising him in heaven.
1. Some of these promises relate to Solomon, his immediate successor, and to the royal line of Judah. (1.) That God would advance him to the throne. Those words, when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, intimate that David himself should come to his grave in peace; and then I will set up thy seed. This favour was so much the greater because it was more than God had done for Moses, or Joshua, or any of the judges whom he called to feed his people. David’s government was the first that was entailed; for the promise made to Christ of the kingdom was to reach to his spiritual seed. If children, then heirs. (2.) That he would settle him in the throne: I will establish his kingdom (2 Sam. 7:12), the throne of his kingdom, 2 Sam. 7:13. His title shall be clear and uncontested, his interest confirmed, and his administration steady. (3.) That he would employ him in that good work of building the temple, which David had only the satisfaction of designing: He shall build a house for my name, 2 Sam. 7:13. The work shall be done, though David shall not have the doing of it. (4.) That he would take him into the covenant of adoption (2 Sam. 7:14, 15): I will be his father, and he shall be my son. We need no more to make us and ours happy than to have God to be a Father to us and them; and all those to whom God is a Father he by his grace makes his sons, by giving them the disposition of children. If he be a careful, tender, bountiful Father to us, we must be obedient, tractable, dutiful children to him. The promise here speaks as unto sons. [1.] That his Father would correct him when there was occasion; for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not? Afflictions are an article of the covenant, and are not only consistent with, but flow from, God’s fatherly love. “If he commit iniquity, as it proved he did (1 Kgs. 11:1), I will chasten him to bring him to repentance, but it shall be with the rod of men, such a rod as men may wield—I will not plead against him with the great power of God,” Job 23:6. Or rather such a rod as men may bear—“I will consider his frame, and correct him with all possible tenderness and compassion when there is need, and no more than there is need of; it shall be with the stripes, the touches (so the word is) of the children of men; not a stroke, or wound, but a gentle touch.” [2.] That yet he would not disinherit him (2 Sam. 7:15): My mercy (and that is the inheritance of sons) shall not depart from him. The revolt of the ten tribes from the house of David was their correction for iniquity, but the constant adherence of the other two to that family, which was a competent support of the royal dignity, perpetuated the mercy of God to the seed of David, according to this promise; though that family was cut short, yet it was not cut off, as the house of Saul was. Never any other family swayed the sceptre of Judah than that of David. This is that covenant of royalty celebrated (Ps. 89:3, 4) as typical of the covenant of redemption and grace.
2. Others of them relate to Christ, who is often called David and the Son of David, that Son of David to whom these promises pointed and in whom they had their full accomplishment. He was of the seed of David, Acts 13:23. To him God gave the throne of his father David (Luke 1:32), all power both in heaven and earth, and authority to execute judgment. He was to build the gospel temple, a house for God’s name, Zech. 6:12, 13. That promise, I will be his Father, and he shall be my Son, is expressly applied to Christ by the apostle, Heb. 1:5. But the establishing of his house, and his throne, and his kingdom, for ever (2 Sam. 7:13; and again, and a third time 2 Sam. 7:16. for ever), can be applied to no other than Christ and his kingdom. David’s house and kingdom have long since come to an end; it is only the Messiah’s kingdom that is everlasting, and of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end. The supposition of committing iniquity cannot indeed be applied to the Messiah himself, but it is applicable (and very comfortable) to his spiritual seed. True believers have their infirmities, for which they may expect to be corrected, but they shall not be cast off. Every transgression in the covenant will not throw us out of covenant. Now, (1.) This message Nathan faithfully delivered to David (2 Sam. 7:17); though, in forbidding him to build the temple, he contradicted his own words, yet he was not backward to do it when he was better informed concerning the mind of God. (2.) These promises God faithfully performed to David and his seed in due time. Though David came short of making good his purpose to build God a house, yet God did not come short of making good his promise to build him a house. Such is the tenour of the covenant we are under; though there are many failures in our performances, there are none in God’s.