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The Sure Mercies of David

June 13, 2018 4 comments

 

Recently, someone asked “If the Davidic Covenant was indeed one of works, where do the ‘sure mercies of David’ fit in, which were unconditional?”

It’s a great question, and not the easiest one to answer. The Davidic Covenant is not discussed very much in 17th century particular baptist works. Samuel Renihan explains in From Shadow to Substance that most of them were primarily polemical – meaning they were responding to paedobaptist errors rather than presenting an overview of particular baptist covenant theology, so they primarily focus on the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and New covenants. Nehemiah Coxe’s Discourse on the Divine Covenants presents the rare systematic overview of particular baptist covenant theology. However, he stops at the Abrahamic Covenant and then hands it off to Owen’s commentary on Hebrews to explain the Mosaic and New Covenants – in which case the Davidic is largely skipped over. My knowledge of all the various works on baptist covenant theology is incomplete, but the next systematic overview given that I am aware of is R.B.C. Howell’s The Covenants (1855) (see notes here). Following that is A.W. Pink’s The Divine Covenants. Both provide a lot of helpful insight on the Davidic Covenant, Pink especially. More recently Jeffery Johnson and Doug Van Dorn offer complete overviews for consideration. Aside from that, one can find statements scattered across various works such as Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible, and some comments offered by Samuel and Micah Renihan in their chapter in Recovering a Covenantal Heritage.

The Davidic Covenant

First, I will note that those who hold to 1689 Federalism may differ on whether or not the Davidic Covenant was a covenant of works. One may hold to 1689 Federalism and believe the Davidic Covenant was a covenant of grace, like the Noahic Covenant. They would all agree, however, that the Davidic Covenant was distinct from the New Covenant/Covenant of Grace. For example, Spurgeon explains “There was a covenant made with David, which was intended to be typical of another covenant; and David himself is the special type of that great King with whom God has made a covenant on behalf of his people.”

In the Davidic Covenant, God promised

  1. to set David’s offspring on David’s throne
  2. to establish his throne forever
  3. that his offspring would build a house for God to dwell in
  4. that He would be his offspring’s Father
  5. that His mercy would not depart from his offspring, in spite of his sin

2 Sam 7:12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. 15 But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.

The “Letter” Fulfillment

Correctly parsing the Davidic Covenant is difficult because it so closely blends type and antitype. Pink notes

In the opening chapter of this study it was pointed out that the various covenants which God entered into with men, from time to time, adumbrated different features of the everlasting covenant which He made with the Mediator ere time began. As we have followed the historical stream it has been shown wherein the Adamic, the Noahic, and the Sinaitic covenants shadowed forth the essential features of that eternal compact which constituted the basis of the salvation of God’s elect. In connection with the Davidic it is observable there is an absence of those details which marked the earlier ones, that renders it less easy to determine the exact purpose and purport of it so far as the “letter” of it was concerned. Yet the reason for this is not far to seek: as the last of the Old Testament covenants, the type merged more definitely with the antitype. This becomes the more patent when we examine carefully those Scriptures bearing directly thereon, for in some of them it is almost impossible to say whether the type or the antitype be before us…

However, just as with the Abrahamic Covenant, Scripture tells us clearly how the Davidic Covenant was fulfilled in the land of Canaan amongst Israel prior to Christ.

1 Chr 22:5 Now David said, “Solomon my son is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the Lord must be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorious throughout all countries. I will now make preparation for it.” So David made abundant preparations before his death.

Then he called for his son Solomon, and charged him to build a house for the Lord God of Israel. And David said to Solomon: “My son, as for me, it was in my mind to build a house to the name of the Lord my God; but the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have made great wars; you shall not build a house for My name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in My sight. Behold, a son shall be born to you, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies all around. His name shall be Solomon, for I will give peace and quietness to Israel in his days. 10 He shall build a house for My name, and he shall be My son, and I will be his Father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’ 11 Now, my son, may the Lord be with you; and may you prosper, and build the house of the Lord your God, as He has said to you. 12 Only may the Lord give you wisdom and understanding, and give you charge concerning Israel, that you may keep the law of the Lord your God. 13 Then you will prosper, if you take care to fulfill the statutes and judgments with which the Lord charged Moses concerning Israel. Be strong and of good courage; do not fear nor be dismayed.

1 Chr 28:2 Then King David rose to his feet and said, “Hear me, my brethren and my people: I had it in my heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and for the footstool of our God, and had made preparations to build it. But God said to me, ‘You shall not build a house for My name, because you have been a man of war and have shed blood.’ However the Lord God of Israel chose me above all the house of my father to be king over Israel forever, for He has chosen Judah to be the ruler. And of the house of Judah, the house of my father, and among the sons of my father, He was pleased with me to make me king over all Israel. And of all my sons (for the Lord has given me many sons) He has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. Now He said to me, ‘It is your son Solomon who shall build My house and My courts; for I have chosen him to be My son, and I will be his Father. Moreover I will establish his kingdom forever, if he is steadfast to observe My commandments and My judgments, as it is this day.’ Now therefore, in the sight of all Israel, the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God, be careful to seek out all the commandments of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good land, and leave it as an inheritance for your children after you forever.

“As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever. 10 Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong, and do it.”

David apparently received more revelation beyond what is recorded in 2 Samuel 7. He specifically says that God told him Solomon was the fulfillment of God’s covenant promise. These passages teach that at least promises 1-4 (from our list above) refer to Solomon. Importantly, this additional revelation that David received clarified that his throne would be established forever (meaning passed down through generations) upon the condition of continual obedience to Mosaic law down through the generations. At his deathbed, David again provides further elaboration of the revelation he received.

1 Kings 2:1 Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; that the Lord may fulfill His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul,’ He said, ‘you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’

A little further down we read “Then Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established.” (Cf 2 Sam 7:12) Later, when King Solomon asks for wisdom, he notes

1 Kgs 3:6 And Solomon said: “You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.

We then read how King Solomon was a man of rest and peace, as promised to David (note the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant as well).

1 Kgs 4:1 So King Solomon was king over all Israel… 20 Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and rejoicing… 24 For he had dominion over all the region on this side of the River from Tiphsah even to Gaza, namely over all the kings on this side of the River; and he had peace on every side all around him. 25 And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, each man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan as far as Beersheba, all the days of Solomon. [cf 1 Kg 5:But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side; there is neither adversary nor evil occurrence.]

At the dedication of the temple, Solomon said the promises of the Davidic Covenant were fulfilled.

1 Kgs 8:12 Then Solomon spoke:

“The Lord said He would dwell in the dark cloud.
13 I have surely built You an exalted house,
And a place for You to dwell in forever.”

14 Then the king turned around and blessed the whole assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Israel was standing. 15 And he said: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who spoke with His mouth to my father David, and with His hand has fulfilled it, saying, 16 ‘Since the day that I brought My people Israel out of Egypt, I have chosen no city from any tribe of Israel in which to build a house, that My name might be there; but I chose David to be over My people Israel.’ 17 Now it was in the heart of my father David to build a temple for the name of the Lord God of Israel. 18 But the Lord said to my father David, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a temple for My name, you did well that it was in your heart. 19 Nevertheless you shall not build the temple, but your son who will come from your body, he shall build the temple for My name.’ 20 So the Lord has fulfilled His word which He spoke; and I have filled the position of my father David, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the Lord promised; and I have built a temple for the name of the Lord God of Israel. 21 And there I have made a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord which He made with our fathers, when He brought them out of the land of Egypt.”

22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven; 23 and he said: “Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts. 24 You have kept what You promised Your servant David my father; You have both spoken with Your mouth and fulfilled it with Your hand, as it is this day. 25 Therefore, Lord God of Israel, now keep what You promised Your servant David my father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man sit before Me on the throne of Israel, only if your sons take heed to their way, that they walk before Me as you have walked before Me.’ 26 And now I pray, O God of Israel, let Your word come true, which You have spoken to Your servant David my father.

Keil and Delitzsch note “It is very obvious, from all the separate details of this promise, that it related primarily to Solomon, and had a certain fulfilment in him and his reign.”

If… then…

Of the 5 promises we listed above, Scripture says 4 of them were fulfilled when Solomon built the temple

  1. to set David’s offspring on David’s throne
  2. to establish his throne forever
  3. that his offspring would build a house for God to dwell in
  4. that He would be his offspring’s Father
  5. that His mercy would not depart from his offspring, in spite of his sin

The 5th has reference to a time when David’s offspring disobey Mosaic law. Since that had not yet happened, it had not yet been fulfilled.

Note especially that even the promise to establish the throne forever referred to the letter fulfillment. Recall that God told David this promise was conditional.

1 Chr 28:7 Moreover I will establish his kingdom forever, if he is steadfast to observe My commandments and My judgments, as it is this day.’

God revealed this to Solomon as well.

1 Kgs 9:1 And it came to pass, when Solomon had finished building the house of the Lord and the king’s house, and all Solomon’s desire which he wanted to do, that the Lord appeared to Solomon the second time, as He had appeared to him at Gibeon. And the Lord said to him: “I have heard your prayer and your supplication that you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built to put My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.’ But if you or your sons at all turn from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them; and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight. Israel will be a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And as for this house, which is exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and will hiss, and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ Then they will answer, ‘Because they forsook the Lord their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore the Lord has brought all this calamity on them.’”

The same clarification is found in Psalm 132, most likely written by Solomon around the time of the completion of the temple.

10 For the sake of David Your servant,
Do not turn away the face of Your anointed.
11 The Lord has sworn to David
A truth from which He will not turn back:
“Of the fruit of your body I will set upon your throne.
12 “If your sons will keep My covenant
And My testimony which I will teach them,
Their sons also shall sit upon your throne forever.”

God’s promise to establish the throne of David and his offspring forever had reference to a continuous succession of kings. They would continue to reign, one after the other as long as they obeyed Mosaic law. God’s dwelling in the temple was also conditioned upon this obedience. He says in v3 above that the temple was consecrated to put His name there forever (cf Ps 132:14). Yet he goes on to state the conditional nature of forever (v7). God revealed the same thing to Solomon during its construction.

1 Kgs 6:11 Then the word of the Lord came to Solomon, saying: 12 Concerning this temple which you are building, if you walk in My statutes, execute My judgments, keep all My commandments, and walk in them, then I will perform My word with you, which I spoke to your father David. 13 And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.”

Note also that Israel’s tenure in the land was now conditioned upon the obedience of the king (1 Kgs 9:7 “then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them“). The Davidic Covenant was truly an extension of the Mosaic Covenant of works for life in the land of Canaan.

Solomon Forsakes the Lord

Solomon failed to meet the conditional requirement.

1 Kgs 11:1 But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites— from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon. And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.

So the Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, 10 and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded. 11 Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. 12 Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.”

God is very clear: Solomon failed to keep the condition, so the conditional promise will not be fulfilled. His kingdom in Canaan will not be established forever down through successive generations for Israel living in the land. It will be taken from him. However, “for the sake of David” Solomon’s kingdom will not be taken from him during his life. Instead, the kingdom would be taken away from Solomon’s son Rehoboam. (Whether or not this was due to a promise made in the Davidic covenant will be discussed below.)

Rehoboam became king, but the people rebelled against him because of his heavy taxes. 10 tribes broke away from Rehoboam and made Jeroboam king instead. These 10 tribes became known as “Israel” in opposition to “Judah” (“Jew” refers to someone from the tribe of Judah, not simply to all Israelites – though a Jew became known as a true faithful Israelite in opposition to the Israelites who broke away and setup a capital in Samaria, thus known as Samaritans – cf John 4:9, 12, 20).

1 Kgs 12:19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.

20 Now it came to pass when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had come back, they sent for him and called him to the congregation, and made him king over all Israel. There was none who followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only.

R.B.C. Howell remarks

Here the reign of the family of David over all Israel, actually, and forever ceased. Indeed, from beginning to end, it continued at most, but three generations, or about
one century. Over Judah alone, his descendants continued to reign for several centuries more. At length however Nebuchadnezzar invaded and conquered the nation, destroyed Jerusalem, burned the temple, carried the people into captivity, and desolated the whole land. With this overthrow, which occurred five hundred and eighty nine years before the coming of Christ, ended finally, the reign even over
Judah itself, of the family of David. His literal throne existed no more… Twenty four hundred years has David’s literal throne been buried. It will never be resuscitated. (The Covenants, 38-40)

Jeroboam’s Enduring House

Interestingly, note that God offered Jeroboam (whom the 10 tribes made their king) the same conditional “letter” promise that he made Solomon.

1 Kgs 11:37 So I will take you, and you shall reign over all your heart desires, and you shall be king over Israel. 38 Then it shall be, if you heed all that I command you, walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build for you an enduring house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you.

This is very interesting because it teaches us that Jeroboam could have become like David and could have his throne established over Israel forever, if he obeyed the Mosaic Covenant. It also teaches us that David’s obedience to the Mosaic Covenant – obedience that is repeatedly mentioned throughout the various revelations of the Davidic Covenant – secured blessings for his offspring.

1 Kgs 11:34 However I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, because I have made him ruler all the days of his life for the sake of My servant David, whom I chose because he kept My commandments and My statutes.

1 Kgs 3:6 And Solomon said: “You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.

Compare this to Abraham.

Gen 22:15 Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, 16 and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

Genesis 26:2 Then the Lord appeared to him and said: “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land of which I shall tell you. Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.”

Saul’s Enduring House

Interestingly, this opportunity to have a kingdom established down through the generations of a king appears to have been a standing order. When Saul provoked the Lord to anger by unlawfully offering a sacrifice himself

1 Sam 13:13-14 Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”

The 5th Davidic Promise

Was the 5th promise fulfilled in Solomon? In 2 Sam. 7:14-15 God told David

  • If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you.” (NKJV)
  • 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.” (ESV)
  • “…But my faithful love will never leave him as it did when I removed it from Saul, whom I removed from before you.” (CSB)
  • “…But I will not withdraw my support from him as I did from Saul, whom I removed so that you could be king. ” (GNT)
  • “…But my loyal love will not be removed from him as I removed it from Saul, whom I removed from before you.” (NET)
  • “…and My kindness doth not turn aside from him, as I turned it aside from Saul, whom I turned aside from before thee” (Young’s Literal)

As I took it from Saul

It is not immediately clear exactly what the verse is referring to. It clearly has something to do with God’s favor upon Saul as king. Saul was anointed by God to be king over Israel (1 Samuel 9:16; 10:1). The Spirit was placed upon him as a prophet (1 Sam. 10:10). He was then made king by the people (1 Sam. 10:17-25).

He disobeyed Mosaic law and was therefore rejected as king by God (1 Sam 15:10, 26). As we saw above, God said that Saul’s kingdom would not continue forever because he would be replaced by someone else. Samuel said “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.” (1 Sam. 15:28).

God then anointed David king and the Spirit came upon him as the Spirit left Saul (1 Sam. 16:13-14). However, Saul remained king of Israel for the rest of his life. David still considered him the divinely anointed king of Israel (1 Sam. 24:6, 14). Upon his second opportunity to kill Saul, David said

1 Sam. 26:9 But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the Lord‘s anointed and be guiltless?” 10 And David said, “As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish. 11 The Lord forbid that I should put out my hand against the Lord‘s anointed.

Saul later died in battle (1 Sam. 31). After his death, the tribe of Judah made David their king (2 Sam 2:4). However, the rest of Israel made Saul’s son Ish-bosheth their king. “Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and he reigned two years. But the house of Judah followed David.” (2 Sam. 2:10). Ish-bosheth was murdered (2 Sam 4), then all Israel made David their king (2 Sam. 5:1-5).

In sum: Saul sinned so the Lord tore the kingdom of Israel from him and gave it to someone else (David). But he remained the official anointed king of Israel all of his life until he died (in battle). His son then reigned over a portion of divided Israel until he was murdered, at which point David reigned over all of united Israel.

Compare with Solomon: Solomon sinned so the Lord tore the kingdom of Israel from him and gave it to someone else (Jeroboam). But he remained the official anointed king of Israel all of his life until he died (of old age). His son then reigned over united Israel for a time until it was taken from him and given to Jeroboam, who reigned over a portion of divided Israel while he continued to reign over Judah.

Recall 1 Kings 11:11-13

Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. 12 Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.”

God “tore” the kingdom from Saul and from Solomon because of their sin. In Saul’s case, it happened in his day “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day” while in Solomon’s case it happened in his son’s day. Both remained kings over Israel the rest of their lives. So in what sense was the kingdom torn from Saul that it was not from Solomon? The best answer appears to be that God cut Saul’s life short by killing him in battle so that David could reign (“whom I removed from before you” – cf Acts 13:22) while Solomon died of old age. Speaking to Jeroboam, God said

1 Kgs 11:34 Nevertheless, I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, but I will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of David my servant whom I chose, who kept my commandments and my statutes. 35 But I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand and will give it to you, ten tribes. 36 Yet to his son I will give one tribe, that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen to put my name. 37 And I will take you, and you shall reign over all that your soul desires, and you shall be king over Israel.

Consider the blessings and curses of the Mosaic Covenant in Deuteronomy 28.

Deut 28:1, 7 “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you todayThe Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you.”

Deut 28:15, 25 “But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you todayThe Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies.

Saul broke Mosaic law and was therefore killed in battle. Solomon broke Mosaic law, but he was not killed in battle. The Lord did raise up adversaries (“wounds inflicted by human beings”) against Solomon after he sinned (“And the Lord raised up an adversary against Solomon, Hadad the Edomite... God also raised up as an adversary to him, Rezon the son of EliadaHe was an adversary of Israel all the days of Solomon, doing harm as Hadad did.” 1 Kgs 11:14, 23, 25) but Solomon was not defeated by them. Instead “Solomon slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David his father” (1 Kgs 11:43).

5th Promise Fulfilled?

“I will become his father and he will become my son. When he sins, I will correct him with the rod of men and with wounds inflicted by human beings. But my loyal love will not be removed from him as I removed it from Saul, whom I removed from before you.” (NET)

Was this promised fulfilled in Solomon? This has not been an easy question to answer, but in light of the above, I do believe it was fulfilled in Solomon’s day. God said he would not take the kingdom from Solomon, but would take it from his son instead “for the sake of David,” which is shorthand meaning “because of the Davidic Covenant.” Solomon sinned and God raised up adversaries who did Israel harm by inflicting wounds, but God did not allow them to kill Solomon, who lived and reigned as king until he slept in fulfillment of this covenant promise made to David.

This is likely what Solomon was referring to at the dedication of the temple when he said “‘O Lord God, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed; Remember the mercies of Your servant David.’” (2 Chr 6:42) Thus all of the Davidic promises we originally saw were fulfilled in Solomon.

Spiritual Fulfillment

So the conditional Davidic Covenant was fulfilled in Solomon and the Davidic kingdom of Israel was taken from his son as a result of his sin. However, in God’s judgment upon Rehoboam we see a “but.”

1 Kgs 11:39 And I will afflict the descendants of David because of this, but not forever.

God will curse the descendants of David according to the letter of the promise, but there will be a time in the future when this will cease. It will not be permanent.

1 Kgs 11:13 However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.”

The kingdom of Israel is taken away from the line of David because of their disobedience to Mosaic law, but the tribe of David is to be spared in some way. (Where is this promised in the Davidic Covenant?)

Rehoboam forsakes the Lord so God sends judgment upon Judah.

1 Chr 12:1 When the kingdom of Rehoboam was established and strong, he and all Israel with him forsook the law of the Lord. And it came about in King Rehoboam’s fifth year, because they had been unfaithful to the Lord, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem with 1,200 chariots and 60,000 horsemen. And the people who came with him from Egypt were without number: the Lubim, the Sukkiim and the Ethiopians. He captured the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem. Then Shemaiah the prophet came to Rehoboam and the princes of Judah who had gathered at Jerusalem because of Shishak, and he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, ‘You have forsaken Me, so I also have forsaken you to Shishak.’”

Psalm 89 was most likely written during this time when the Davidic kingdom had been fully established but then lost to Israel’s old enemy Egypt (See Spurgeon’s introductory comments, Gill’s, and Knife’s – pages 88ff). In this psalm we see a hope of some future fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant (that we don’t really see in Psalm 132), despite the fact that Scripture teaches the Davidic promises were already fulfilled. Verses 19-37 recall what God promised in the Davidic Covenant, but with new details and a new emphasis. The “forever” clause is no longer understood to be conditional.

28 “My lovingkindness I will keep for him forever,
And My covenant shall be confirmed to him.
29 “So I will establish his descendants forever
And his throne as the days of heaven.

30 “If his sons forsake My law
And do not walk in My judgments,
31 If they violate My statutes
And do not keep My commandments,
32 Then I will punish their transgression with the rod
And their iniquity with stripes.
33 But I will not break off My lovingkindness from him,
Nor deal falsely in My faithfulness.
34 “My covenant I will not violate,
Nor will I alter the utterance of My lips.
35 “Once I have sworn by My holiness;
I will not lie to David.
36 “His descendants shall endure forever
And his throne as the sun before Me.
37 “It shall be established forever like the moon,
And the witness in the sky is faithful.” Selah.

Previously God said the establishment of the throne forever was conditioned upon the obedience of David’s sons (1 Kgs 9:4-5; 1 Chr 28:7). Now the “forever” promise is to be fulfilled in spite of their disobedience. What are we to make of this discrepancy? If we rejected the divine inspiration of Scripture we could simply say that Ethan the Psalmist misunderstood the Davidic Covenant. If we rejected the truthfulness of God we could say He contradicted Himself. Neither are an option. Neither can we say the Davidic Covenant only really had reference to a distant future son, not to Solomon or Rehoboam.

The best way to resolve the tension is to understand the Davidic promises as having a double meaning, or a dichotomous nature. In this podcast series and this post, I explain how God promised two things to Abraham. The first promise was that Abraham would have numerous offspring that would become a great nation and possess the land of Canaan (Gen 12:2, 7; 13:15; 15:5, 7, 18-21; 17:2, 7-8; 22:17; 24:7; 26:3-4; 28:3-4, 13-14; 35:11-12; 46:3; 48:4). The second promise was that Abraham would be the father of the promised seed of the woman who would bless all nations (Gen 12:3; 18:18; 22:17b-18; 26:4; 28:14; Gal 3:8, 16-17). The first promise was given as a picture for us to better understand the second promise. It was typological of the second promise in that the kingdom of Israel was a shadow of the kingdom of Christ.

We can take a similar approach to the Davidic Covenant. God promised two things to David. The first promise was that David would have numerous offspring that would rule over the nation of Israel in the land of Canaan with God in their midst. The second promise was that David would be the father of the promised seed of the woman who would bless all nations. The first promise was given as a picture for us to better understand the second promise. It was typological of the second promise in that the throne of David was a shadow of the throne of Christ. (Consider Augustine on this point).

The trouble is that in the Davidic they seem to overlap entirely, as Pink noted.

The promises made to David in all these places had immediate reference to Solomon and to his descendants. But it is clear that the New Testament writers understood them as referring also to the Messiah… Peter affirms that David was aware of this, and that he so understood the promise as referring not only to Solomon, but in a far more important sense to the Messiah… In what way these promises that were made to David were understood as applying to the Messiah, it may not be easy to determine. (Albert Barnes on Acts 2:30)

Though aided by the Spirit of prophecy, perhaps what allowed David and Ethan the Psalmist to see a future fulfillment beyond Solomon was the very end of the oath. David understood that the promise to establish the throne of Solomon’s kingdom forever (v 13) was conditioned upon Solomon’s obedience to the law (recall 1 Chr. 28:7). But then God goes on to say that even if Solomon commits iniquity, David’s kingdom and throne shall be established forever.

2 Sam. 7:12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. 15 But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.”

So Solomon’s kingdom (letter fulfillment) will be established forever if he obeys the Mosaic law, but David’s kingdom (spiritual fulfillment) will be established forever even if Solomon commits iniquity. I think this is precisely what David and the prophets latched on to. Re-read Psalm 89 with this in mind.

For the Sake of David

This would explain why the tribe of Judah was separated from the 10 tribes and spared from their annihilation. Previously, all 12 tribes were spared from the Mosaic curse because of God’s promise to Abraham. But because the first Abrahamic promise had been fulfilled in the reigns of David and Solomon, it no longer preserved all of Israel from the Mosaic curse (Gen 15:11; Deut 28:26). The second Abrahamic promise (yet to be fulfilled) was narrowed to the seed of David and thus Judah was spared. Israel was destroyed and scattered by Assyria, but God spared Judah from Assyria.

2 Kgs 8:19 However, the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah, for the sake of David His servant, since He had promised him to give a lamp to him through his sons always. (Cf Hosea 1:6-7; 2 Kgs 19:32-37; 20:6)

Judah’s kings later followed in the steps of Israel and forsook the Lord but God did not destroy and scatter them all, like he did to the 10 tribes. Instead, he saved a remnant who were taken captive into the land of Babylon. Part of this judgment upon Judah included the termination of David’s throne even over Judah. David’s offspring never again reigned as kings over Judah.

Jeremiah 22:24 As I live,” says the Lord, “though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet on My right hand, yet I would pluck you off; 25 and I will give you into the hand of those who seek your life, and into the hand of those whose face you fear—the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and the hand of the Chaldeans. 26 So I will cast you out, and your mother who bore you, into another country where you were not born; and there you shall die. 27 But to the land to which they desire to return, there they shall not return.

28 “Is this man Coniah a despised, broken idol—
A vessel in which is no pleasure?
Why are they cast out, he and his descendants,
And cast into a land which they do not know?
29 O earth, earth, earth,
Hear the word of the Lord!
30 Thus says the Lord:
‘Write this man down as childless,
A man who shall not prosper in his days;
For none of his descendants shall prosper,
Sitting on the throne of David,
And ruling anymore in Judah.’ ”

Immediately after this curse, Jeremiah proclaimed the future restoration of Israel and Judah through a righteous branch of David.

Jeremiah23:1 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: “You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,” says the Lord. “But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking,” says the Lord.

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord,
“That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness;
A King shall reign and prosper,
And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
In His days Judah will be saved,
And Israel will dwell safely;
Now this is His name by which He will be called:

 

The Davidic covenant became, as Bergen observes, “the nucleus around which messages of hope proclaimed by Hebrew prophets of later generations were built…”xix This covenant is mentioned or alluded to in several of the Psalms (cf. Ps. 21, 72, 89, 110, 132). It is also alluded to in the prophetic writings. As the monarchy eventually began to slide into wickedness, the prophets began to understand the promises of the Davidic covenant eschatologically. As Joyce Baldwin notes, the prophets taught that David’s “booth would be repaired (Am. 9:11); a Davidic child would establish his throne with justice and with righteousness (Is. 9:6–7); a branch from the stump of Jesse would yet create an ideal kingdom (Is. 11:1–9; cf. Je. 23:5; Zc. 3:8).”xx The promises that had not yet been fulfilled would be fulfilled in the future (cf. Isa. 7:13–25; 16:5; 55:3; Jer. 30:8; 33:14–26; Ezek. 34:20–24; 37:24–25; Hos. 3:5; Zech. 6:12–13; 12:7–8). (Keith Mathison: The Davidic Covenant — The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology)

The Sure Mercies of David

Though spoken in prophetic idiom using the language and imagery of Israel and Canaan, these promises of a future restoration referred to eschatological Israel (the church of Christ) and the kingdom to be established forever was the kingdom of heaven (for more see here).

Amos 9:11 “On that day I will raise up
The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down,
And repair its damages;
I will raise up its ruins,
And rebuild it as in the days of old;

 

Is. 9:6 For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

 

Jer. 33:14-18 ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah:

‘In those days and at that time
I will cause to grow up to David
A Branch of righteousness;
He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
In those days Judah will be saved,
And Jerusalem will dwell safely.
And this is the name by which she will be called:

THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.’

For thus says the Lord: ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; nor shall the priests, the Levites, lack a man to offer burnt offerings before Me, to kindle grain offerings, and to sacrifice continually.’ ”

19 And the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, 20 “Thus says the Lord: ‘If you can break My covenant with the day and My covenant with the night, so that there will not be day and night in their season, 21 then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levites, the priests, My ministers. 22 As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, nor the sand of the sea measured, so will I multiply the descendants of David My servant and the Levites who minister to Me.’ ”

 

Ezk. 37:24 “David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them. 25 Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever. 26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27 My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 28 The nations also will know that I, the Lord, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.” ’ ”

Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah all refer to a new covenant of peace that will be made in the future, not like the old covenant that Israel broke. Isaiah said

Is. 42:1,6 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations…
I will give you as a covenant for the people,

Is. 49:3, 8 “And He said to me,
‘You are My servant, O Israel,
In whom I will be glorified.’…
I will preserve You and give You
As a covenant to the people,

Is. 55:1-5 “Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.
Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
Incline your ear, and come to Me.
Hear, and your soul shall live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you—
The sure mercies of David.
Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people,
A leader and commander for the people.
Surely you shall call a nation you do not know,
And nations who do not know you shall run to you,
Because of the Lord your God,
And the Holy One of Israel;
For He has glorified you.”

The “sure mercies of David” is alternately translated:

  • my faithful love promised to David. (NIV)
  • my steadfast, sure love for David. (ESV)
  • According to the faithful mercies shown to David. (NASB)
  • even the sure mercies of David. (KJV)
  • the promises assured to David. (HCSB)
  • just like the reliable covenantal promises I made to David. (NET)*

* tn Heb “the reliable expressions of loyalty of David.” The syntactical relationship of חַסְדֵי (khasde, “expressions of loyalty”) to the preceding line is unclear. If the term is appositional to בְּרִית (bÿrit, “covenant”), then the Lord here transfers the promises of the Davidic covenant to the entire nation. Another option is to take חַסְדֵי (khasde) as an adverbial accusative and to translate “according to the reliable covenantal promises.” In this case the new covenantal arrangement proposed here is viewed as an extension or perhaps fulfillment of the Davidic promises. A third option, the one reflected in the above translation, is to take the last line as comparative. In this case the new covenant being proposed is analogous to the Davidic covenant. Verses 4-5, which compare David’s international prominence to what Israel will experience, favors this view. In all three of these interpretations, “David” is an objective genitive; he is the recipient of covenantal promises.

Of these three options offered in the NET footnote, I believe the second (the new covenant is a fulfillment of the Davidic covenant) would fit best with all that we have discussed above. However, the footnote goes on to mention another possibility.

A fourth option would be to take David as a subjective genitive and understand the line as giving the basis for the preceding promise: “Then I will make an unconditional covenantal promise to you, because of David’s faithful acts of covenantal loyalty.”

We saw a similar idea above in Solomon’s prayer for wisdom.

1 Kgs 3:6 And Solomon said: “You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. (NKJV)

The ESV has “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness…” In a WTJ essay, Peter J. Gentry argues for a subjective translation and interpretation (read a summary here), with the important qualification that it is referring to Christ, not David.

The “sure mercies” are by David rather than for David… [T]he use of the name David in Isaiah shows that a future descendent is uppermost in the author’s thought… If “David” refers to the future king in 55:3, a precedent would already be set by Hos 3:5, a usage more similar than those in Jeremiah (30:8–9) and Ezekiel (34:23–24; 37:24–25)…

Scholars have emphasized that ḥasdê dāwıd̄ hanneʾĕmānîm in 55:3b functions in apposition to berîtʿôlām in 3a. What acts of ḥesed on the part of the future David can constitute an eternal covenant?… It is the acts of ḥesed on the part of the Servant that establish and initiate the discussion on the eternal covenant in ch. 54 of which 55:3 continues the thread. It is because the Servant is the “covenant of the people” in himself (42:6; 49:8) that the apposition of ḥasdê dāwıd̄ and berîtʿôlām in v. 3 makes sense…

The role of the Davidic King in fulfilling his covenant obligations is defined by divine sonship based upon 2 Sam 7:14–15 and Deut 17:18–20… Thus Isaiah employs nāgîd because the future David fulfills the role of obedient [royal] son in the framework of the Davidic Covenant… The main reason interpreters have sought to interpret the
text from the point of view of an objective genitive is a failure to see that a future, not historical, David is in view and a failure to observe properly the trajectory of the covenants in the OT and the flow of thought both in the book of Isaiah as whole and in the near context of ch. 55. The fact that some interpreters use such renderings in English as “the promises of grace to David” or the aforementioned “unfailing kindnesses promised to David” — paraphrases which actually go beyond linguistic parameters for a literal translation as objective genitive—really show how awkward it is to construe it this way. The blessings do come to the nations, not because Yahweh’s promises to David are democratized in the way some think, but because a new David who is an obedient son succeeds in bringing Yahweh’s Torah to all humans.

Applying this to Acts 13:34, he argues

In v. 32 Paul offers good news to “you” (second person plural), that is, his audience. What God promised to the fathers is now fulfilled for us, their descendants, when He raised Jesus from the dead. Paul cites Ps 2:7 and then affirms that God raised Jesus, no longer to return to corruption. That the resurrection of the Davidic son of Ps 2 is to an incorruptible life is demonstrated by two further texts: Isa 55:3 and Ps 16:10. In Isa 55:3 he (i.e., God) said, “I will give to you the faithfulὅ σια of David.” (Note that the “you” is second person plural. The recipients, according to Paul, are his audience in Pisidian Antioch, the descendants of the people first promised “the faithful ὅσια of David.” This makes perfect sense in view of Isaiah’s doctrine of a remnant.)…

[I]f Paul meant τὰ ὅσια Δαυιδ τὰ πιστά to be subjective genitive and understood “David” not as the historical David, but a rubric for the Messiah, his argument in context becomes plain. The explanation that David served his own generation is a clear statement that the historical David is not in view. Instead, Isaiah refers to the
Messiah. Since the pious deeds of David in the context of Isa 55:3 are the sufferings and death of the Servant in ch. 53, the reference to resurrection becomes clear. Isaiah 53:11 affirms that “after the suffering of his soul he will see the light of life and be satisfied.” Isaiah 53:12 shows the Servant sharing his victory with the many. And it is natural for Paul to cite 55:3 and not a verse or two in ch. 53 because this is the text that applies the work of the Servant to the nations. Once again, perhaps the reason why scholars have labored so hard to find an appropriate meaning for
ὅσια in Acts 13:34 is that they are thinking of the wrong David. This interpretation, then, for Acts 13:34 is plausible and also matches the proposal for Isa 55:3…

In conclusion, “the faithful kindnesses of David” mentioned in Isa 55:3 are kindnesses performed by David—a rubric for the future king in this text. The faithful or obedient acts of loyal love are those of the Servant King in Isa 53 whose offering of himself as an ʾās̆ām and whose resurrection enable him to bring to fulfillment the promises of Yahweh in the Davidic Covenant and is at the same time the basis for the New or Everlasting Covenant. This future King then fulfills the roles required for the king in Deut 17 and 2 Sam 7 by bringing the divine instruction or Torah to Israel (Deut 17) and, indeed, to all the nations (2 Sam 7:19). He is therefore a leader and commander of the peoples and becomes a covenant witness in himself to the nations. This is exactly how Acts 13:34 interprets Isa 55.

Though not necessarily holding to the subjective translation, Benjamin Keach interprets “David” in 55:3 as Christ in a similar fashion.

METAPHORS TAKEN FROM SACRED PERSONS AND THINGS, AND WHATSOEVER RELATES TO DIVINE WORSHIP

These may be reduced into three heads
(1) Men
(2) Places
(3) Customs, rites, or ceremonies
Of which in order

Metaphors from Men sacred to God

Men that belong to this, are either singular or conjunct, viz., the whole people. Single or singular, as David a man according to God’s own heart, who is put for the Messiah, Isa. lv. 3, “I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the most sure mercies of David.” R. Kimchi, clearly asserts, that the Messiah is to be understood here, and it evidently appears from verse 4. Some understand by “the mercies of David,” the blessings that God promised David, viz., that the Messiah and Savior of the world should be born of his race; which is the same thing in effect with the former explication.

And here as well:

the sure mercies of David: That is our Lord Jesus Christ, he is the true Antitipical David. Sure, because they are Mercies granted to us thro’ Christ’s suretiship; and when a Sinner is brought into the bands of the Covenant, God is said to make this Covenant with him, i. e. he actually entering then thro’ Christ into Covenant with God; but our standing then in it, is upon the account of Christ’s Covenant with the Father for us.

THE DISPLAY OF Glorious Grace OR THE Covenant of Peace Opened: In Several SERMONS.

Gill likewise.

And I will make an everlasting covenant with you; which is to be understood not of the covenant of works, nor of the covenant of circumcision, nor of the Sinai covenant; but of the covenant of grace, which is an “everlasting one”…

even “the sure mercies of David”; that is, the Messiah, the son of David, and his antitype, whence he is often called by his name, ( Ezekiel 34:23 Ezekiel 34:24 ) ( Ezekiel 37:24 Ezekiel 37:25 ) ( Hosea 3:5 ), and so Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and others interpret it. The blessings of the covenant are called “mercies”, because they spring from the mercy of God, as redemption, pardon of sin, regeneration, salvation, and eternal life; and they are the mercies of David, or of Christ, for the promises of them were made to him, and the things themselves put into his hands, and are ratified and confirmed by his blood, and through him come to his people: and these are “sure”, firm, and steadfast, through the faithfulness and holiness of God, who has given them to Christ; through being in a covenant ordered in all things and sure; and also being in the hands of Christ, in whom the promises are yea and amen, and the blessings sure to all the seed; see ( Acts 13:34 )

[Acts 13:34] “I will give you the sure mercies of David”; that is, of the Messiah; by which are meant the blessings of the sure and well ordered covenant of grace, which the Messiah by his sufferings and death was to ratify and secure for all his people: now had he only died, and not been raised from the dead, these blessings had not been ratified and made sure unto them; therefore, when God promises his people, that he will give them the sure mercies of David, or the Messiah, he promises that the Messiah shall not only die to procure mercies and blessings for them, but that he shall rise again from the dead, to make them sure unto them; so that these words are pertinently produced in proof of Christ’s resurrection.

And Pink

The “sure mercies of David” were the things promised to the antitypical David in Psalm 89:28,29, and so forth… Thus “the sure mercies” of the true David signified God would raise Him from the dead unto everlasting life. These “sure mercies” are extended by Isaiah unto all the faithful as the blessings of the covenant, and therefore may be understood to denote all saving benefits bestowed on believers in this life or that to come. This need occasion no difficulty whatever. Those “mercies” were Christ’s by the Father’s promise and by His own purchase, and at His resurrection they became His in actual possession, being all laid up in Him (2 Cor 1:20); and from Him we receive them John 1:16; 16:14-16). The promises descend through Christ to those who believe, and thus are “sure” to all the seed (Rom 4:16). It was the covenant which provided a firm foundation of mercy unto the Redeemer’s family, and none of its blessings can be recalled (Rom 11:32). Those “sure mercies” God swore to bestow upon the spiritual seed or family of David (2 Sam 7:15,16; Psalm 89:2,29, 30), and they were made good in the appearing of Christ and the establishing of His kingdom on His resurrection, as Acts 13:34 so clearly shows, for His coming forth from the grave was the necessary step unto His assumption of sovereign power. (Divine Covenants, Part 6)

Since I don’t know Hebrew (or Greek) I can’t comment on whether the subjective or objective translation is correct. If it is objective, it seems the meaning is that the establishment of the everlasting new covenant is the spiritual fulfillment of God’s promise to establish the throne of David forever (in which case “David” would not be a reference to Christ in Is. 55:3 – Spurgeon adopts this interpretation). However, I do believe that Is. 55:4-5 refer to Christ, not David. If it is subjective, then it refers to Christ and his work given as the new everlasting covenant.

The 5 Davidic Promises Fulfilled in Christ

The New Testament teaches that the promises of the Davidic Covenant were also fulfilled in Christ.

  • to set David’s offspring on David’s throne
  • to establish his throne forever

Luke 1:30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

cf. Matthew 1:1; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31; 21:9, 15; 22:42 Rom 1:3; Acts 2:30; Heb 1:8; Acts 15:16; Rev 3:7; 5:5

 

Acts 13:21 And afterward they asked for a king; so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ 23 From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a[f] Savior—Jesus— 24 after John had first preached, before His coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.

  • that his offspring would build a house for God to dwell in

John 2:19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”

21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.

Cf. 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16; Col 2:9; Eph 2:21-22; Rev 21:22

 

Ephesians 2:19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

  • that He would be his offspring’s Father

Heb 1:5 For to which of the angels did He ever say:

“You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You”?

 

And again:

“I will be to Him a Father,
And He shall be to Me a Son”?

 

Acts 13:32 And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers. 33 God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm:

‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.’

  • that His mercy would not depart from his offspring, in spite of his sin

This last promise is a little more difficult. It does not have an explicit New Testament text demonstrating its fulfillment. However, Psalm 89, written after the fulfillment and collapse of the letter promise, demonstrates a slight change to the 5th promise. The original text in 2 Samuel 7 reads

If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. 15 But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you.

While Psalm 89 reads

30 “If his sons forsake My law
And do not walk in My judgments,
31 If they break My statutes
And do not keep My commandments,
32 Then I will punish their transgression with the rod,
And their iniquity with stripes.
33 Nevertheless My lovingkindness I will not utterly take from him,
Nor allow My faithfulness to fail.
34 My covenant I will not break,
Nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.

The original says that if Solomon sins, God’s mercy/lovingkindness would not depart from Solomon. The Psalm 89 re-iteration says that if David’s sons (i.e., Solomon and Rehoboam, at the time) sin, God’s mercy/lovingkindess would not depart from David – meaning he would not break His covenant promise to David to establish his throne forever (through Christ). Thus this promise has both a letter and a spirit fulfillment.

(Many read these verses in Psalm 89 as a promise to the antitypical David (Christ), and therefore as a promise about Christ’s offspring, believers. Though we sin, God’s mercy/lovingkindness will not depart from his love for us in Christ. This may be a legitimate reading insofar as most of the psalms about David refer both to David and to Christ, but if these verses are read in reference to Christ, then they refer to a promise of the Covenant of Grace, or Covenant of Redemption, not to a promise of the Davidic Covenant).

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Davidic Covenant promised David 5 things. Those 5 things received a letter fulfillment in Solomon. However, the promise to establish David’s throne forever at its first mention (2 Sam 7:12) was a conditional promise concerning Solomon’s kingdom (cf 1 Chr 28:7; 1 Kgs 2:4; 8:25; 9:4-5), while it’s second and third repetition (2 Sam 7:16) was an unconditional promise that would be fulfilled in spite of the sin of David’s offspring – thus pointing to a greater fulfillment beyond the letter fulfillment in earthly Canaan. This greater spiritual fulfillment referred to the birth of Christ, the Messiah, and the establishment of his throne over the kingdom of heaven forever, of which Solomon’s earthly kingdom in Canaan was a type.

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Robert Rollock’s Treatise on Justification

(c) The University of Edinburgh Fine Art Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

ROBERT ROLLOCK (1555–1599), the first Regent and Principal of the University of Edinburgh, is best known to present-day students of historical theology for the role he purportedly played in the development of Reformed federalism by virtue of the relatively unprecedented, mature treatment of a pre-Fall covenant of works discovered in his writings.

Breno Macedo provides some interesting biographical information and discussion of Rollock’s doctrine of the Covenant of Works in a 2015 GPTS Conference lecture. Aaron Clay Denlinger and Noah Phillips translated Rollock’s short Treatise on Jusitification and published it in 2016 edition of the Mid-America Journal of Theology. A few points are worth noting.

He defines justification as

a pronouncement of God our Judge, delivered in keeping with his authority, by which, in keeping with his grace and according to sinful and believing man’s faith in Christ, he remits sins and imputes his own righteousness to man, to the end of man’s own eternal life as well as the glory of his grace and that righteousness of his that he freely imputes to man.

He then notes “At this point it may be asked whether justification is perfectly completed in this life?” He answers

[T]hose [benefits] which we have said do not inhere in man are perfected and summed up in this life itself. “We are already,” 1 John 3:2 says, “sons of God.” We have then already been predestined. We have then already been justified. But those benefits which we have said do inhere in man are not completely perfected in this life, even if they have begun. From these considerations it is surely clear that justification is perfected and summed up in this present life, but is not fully manifested in the same.

The question remains whether Christ will in the future, on the day of judgment, justify those who have believed in this life? And if so, is it not true that justification is actually perfected in the life to come rather than in this life? I respond that Christ will not, on that day of judgment, justify believers. He will, rather, declare on the basis of their works that they have believed and have been justified in this life. Indeed, the verb “justify” sometimes has the meaning of “declare justified.” James uses the word in this very sense when he speaks of the man who is justified according to his works…

But justification, someone will say, is a judicial sentence of life. And life is not perfected until Christ’s second coming. Is it not the case, therefore, that justification itself will not be perfected until Christ’s second coming? I respond that it is one thing for the judicial sentence of life to be complete, and another thing for life itself to be perfected. The sentence of life is surely complete already in this life, but life itself will not be perfected until Christ’s second coming. This argument, therefore, is fallacious and captious.

Second, regarding union with Christ, Rollock acknowledges that at a certain point in time, Christ is applied to us so that we may be regenerated, after which we are justified. Thus we are united to Christ prior to faith, though this union is completed by our restipulation in faith.

The benefits of God that are given to us in Christ in time are effectual calling, justification (which comprehends adoption), and, finally, regeneration or glorification. Each of these benefits comes to us through the application to us of Christ and his grace; or rather, each of these benefits constitutes an application of Christ and his grace to us. The application of Christ to us has a twofold character: there is, first of all, God’s application of Christ to us; secondly, there is our application to ourselves of Christ, who has already been applied to us by God. The first application, therefore, is God’s; the second is our own. The application which we ourselves make of Christ to us is generally called faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit is always yoked with God’s application of Christ to us. Through the Spirit, God works in us our own act of application, or rather the instrument of that application—that is, our faith…

In regeneration (about which we also now speak), finally, God’s work consists in an even closer application of Christ to us, uniting us to him just as a body is joined to its head. With this work of God the Holy Spirit is once again joined. In this work of application God unites us, first of all, to Christ in his death, for the mortification of our own flesh. He further unites us to Christ in his resurrection from death, for the vivification of our spirits. Our own work of application in regeneration consists in laying hold—by that faith stirred up in us through the Holy Spirit—of that Christ who has been united to us in his death and in his life. In this twofold work of application—first of God, then of us—by which Christ is joined to us as a head to its body, our regeneration is seen. For by one and the same work Christ is united to us as our head and we are regenerated or renewed.

Compare with Union with Christ is the New Covenant.

Stephen Cunha on Trinity Foundation Radio

May 8, 2018 6 comments

The Trinity Foundation has started a podcast. Episode 2 is an interview with Stephen Cunha, the author of a critique of Richard Gaffin’s doctrine of justification titled The Emperor Has No Clothes. I recommend the book (and the podcast). (For more details, see here, here, and here).

Cunha is very kind, clear, and level-headed. He explains how he was a member of Gaffin’s congregation, but left after learning more about Gaffin’s doctrine of justification. He wrote a paper explaining his reason for leaving, which eventually became the book.

In addition to the theological issues, Cunha also makes a couple of important observations. First, he recounts coming across someone online who said they had a hard time reading the book and eventually stopped reading it, not because they disagreed necessarily, but simply because Cunha was a layman and Gaffin’s theology has received the stamp of approval from many respectable reformed theologians. Cunha rightly points out this is not a Berean attitude. Along this same line, Cunha comments on the atmosphere in Philadelphia

Some people might say ‘Well how can a lay person think that they can possibly challenge somebody who has a doctorate in theology from Westminster Seminary?” and my only answer to that would be that I think spiritual truths are spiritually discerned… you can have all the technical knowledge, all the training in the world, and be brilliant, but the spiritual truths are spiritually discerned. The Holy Spirit helps to illuminate Scripture so I think even the simplest believer who may not even have any academic degree at all or may not be super intellectual or sophisticated, can understand the deepest truths of Scripture.

And I think in this area in the Westminster – I live in the Philadelphia area – and I’m not trying to slam Westminster Seminary here because I don’t think it’s exclusive to Westminster Seminary, but I think there is an attitude that I picked up from my time here that – it was quite explicit from some people, because we’re surrounded by Westminster students and professors in the area, and there’s this attitude that they are so intellectually smart – and many of them are, many of them are academically gifted – that we have to listen to everything that they say and you can’t question what they’re saying.

Second, he notes that

[T]he reformed world, and even to some degree, the OPC – they do tend to be thought leaders. And I’m concerned that some of this teaching might eventually spill over into other evangelical communities.

There is no “eventually” about it. John Piper explicitly references Gaffin to support his understanding of the final judgment. “Gaffin’s exegetical efforts in By Faith, Not by Sight and the careful work of many other scholars, and my own efforts to understand Scripture persuade me that this is the true biblical understanding of the function of works in the final judgment.” Piper wrote a troubling foreword to Tom Schreiner’s book Sola Fide. Schreiner is a leading figure in what is known as Progressive Covenantalism. He has co-written The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance & Assurance with Ardel Canedy. Canedy has contributed a chapter to the volume “Progressive Covenantalism” titled “Covenantal Life with God from Eden to Holy City” in which he argues that “the formulation of covenant stipulations remains the same across the covenants… From Adam’s habitation of the Edenic garden with access to the tree of life to inheritance of our eternal habitation, God’s holy city…” He rejects the law/gospel distinction rooted in the Covenant of Works/Covenant of Grace distinction as “an exaggerated contrast.” He spends 4 pages recounting the “intramural” debate within the OPC/reformed world on the law/gospel antithesis (one of Cunha’s main criticisms of Gaffin is his rejection of this antithesis). So it has absolutely “spilled over into other evangelical communities” so much that it is apparently now a foundational pillar of Progressive Covenantalism (with a firm root at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary).

So be a Berean. Take up your Bible, read, and ask the Holy Spirit to provide the spiritual illumination necessary to understand it. (Note: that illumination may come by means of what other believers – even those super intellectual academic ones – have written).

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R. Scott Clark’s Inconsistent Hermeneutic

February 14, 2018 2 comments

R. Scott Clark employs a non-typological interpretation of Old Testament restoration prophecies in order to defend the practice of infant baptism. The error of this interpretation is demonstrated by other paedobaptists explaining the correct typological interpretation.

MP3 version

For more, see:

Sources:

Chrysostom on 1 Cor. 7:14

January 1, 2018 3 comments

Chrysostom held to the legitimacy interpretation of 1 Cor. 7:14.

Ver. 12. “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord. If any brother have a wife that believeth not, and she is content to dwell with him, let him not leave her. And if any woman hath an husband that believeth not, and he is content to dwell with her, let her not leave him.”

For as when discoursing about separating from fornicators, he made the matter easy by the correction which he applied to his words, saying, “Howbeit, not altogether with the fornicators of this world;” so also in this case he provideth for the abundant easiness of the duty, saying, “If any wife have a husband, or husband a wife, that believeth not, let him not leave her.” What sayest thou? “If he be an unbeliever, let him remain with the wife, but not if he be a fornicator? And yet fornication is a less sin than unbelief.” I grant, fornication is a less sin: but God spares thine infirmities extremely. And this is what He doth about the sacrifice, saying, (S. Matt. v. 24.) “Leave the sacrifice, and be reconciled to thy brother.” This also in the case of the man who owed ten thousand talents. For him too He did not punish for owing him ten thousand talents, but for demanding back a hundred pence from his fellow-servant He took vengeance on him.

Then lest the woman might fear, as though she became unclean because of intercourse with her husband, he says, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the husband.” And yet, if “he that is joined to an harlot is one body,” it is quite clear that the woman also who is joined to an idolater is one body. Well: it is one body; nevertheless she becomes not unclean, but the cleanness of the wife overcomes the uncleanness of the husband; and again, the cleanness of the believing husband overcomes the uncleanness of the unbelieving wife.

How then in this case is the uncleanness overcome, and therefore the intercourse allowed; while in the woman who prostitutes herself, the husband is not condemned in casting her out? Because here there is hope that the lost member may be saved through the marriage; but in the other case the marriage has already been dissolved; and there again both are corrupted; but here the fault is in one only of the two. I mean something like this: she that has been guilty of fornication is utterly abominable: if then “he that is joined to an harlot is one body,” he also becomes abominable by having connection with an harlot; wherefore all the purity flits away. But in the case before us it is not so. But how? The idolater is unclean but the woman is not unclean. For if indeed she were a partner with him in that wherein he is unclean, I mean his impiety, she herself would also become unclean. But now the idolater is unclean in one way, and the wife holds communion with him in another wherein he is not unclean. For marriage and mixture of bodies is that wherein the communion consists.

Again, there is a hope that this man may be reclaimed by his wife for she is made completely his own: but for the other it is not very easy. For how will she who dishonored him in former times and became another’s and destroyed the rights of marriage, have power to reclaim him whom she had wronged; him, moreover, who still remains to her as an alien?

Again in that case, after the fornication the husband is not a husband: but here, although the wife be an idolatress, the husband’s rights are not destroyed.

However, he doth not simply recommend cohabitation with the unbeliever, but with the qualification that he wills it. Wherefore he said, “And he himself be content to dwell with her.” For, tell me, what harm is there when the duties of piety remain unimpaired and there are good hopes about the unbeliever, that those already joined should so abide and not bring in occasions of unnecessary warfare? For the question now is not about those who have never yet come together, but about those who are already joined. He did not say, If any one wish to take an unbelieving wife, but, “If any one hath an unbelieving wife.” Which means, If any after marrying or being married have received the word of godliness, and then the other party which had continued in unbelief still yearn for them to dwell together, let not the marriage be broken off. “For,” saith he, “the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife.” So great is the superabundance of thy purity.

What then, is the Greek holy? Certainly not: for he said not, He is holy; but, “He is sanctified in his wife.” And this he said, not to signify that he is holy, but to deliver the woman as completely as possible from her fear and lead the man to desire the truth. For the uncleanness is not in the bodies wherein there is communion, but in the mind and the thoughts. And here follows the proof; namely, that if thou continuing unclean have offspring, the child, not being of thee alone, is of course unclean or half clean. But now it is not unclean. To which effect he adds, “else were your children unclean; but now are they holy;” that is, not unclean. But the Apostle calls them, “holy,” by the intensity of the expression again casting out the dread arising from that sort of suspicion.

Homily XIX on Corinthians

Israel as a Parenthesis in God’s Plan

December 31, 2017 1 comment

As I was preparing for Part 5 of the Reformed Northwest Podcast series on 1689 Federalism, it ocurred to me that 1689 Federalism’s view of Israel and the church is, in a sense, the inverse of Dispensationalism’s. Dispensationalism teaches that God’s plan has always been for the nation of Israel and that the church is a parenthesis in that plan. Once the church is raptured away, God will resume his plan with Israel. 1689 Federalism teaches that God’s plan has always been for the glorification of Christ in the redemption of the church (promised in Gen. 3:15) and that the nation of Israel was a temporary, typological event in redemptive history. Of course, we don’t mean precisely the same thing by “parenthesis” (i.e. “Plan B”), but I think it’s decently helpful rhetoric to help people understand the position. Please listen to the podcast to hear the full explanation.

Here is how I put it on Twitter.

brandon_adams
The first typological Abrahamic promise was given in order for us to
better understand the second, anti-typological promise of Christ.
Dec 17, 2017, 10:51 AM
brandon_adams
Contrary to Dispensationalism, the Church was not a parenthesis in God’s plan. If anything, the nation of Israel was.
Dec 17, 2017, 2:44 PM

A reformed paedobaptist responded:

acmills237
Don’t read the scriptures, the fathers, or the reformers and you’ll come up with this view. twitter.com/brandon_adams/…
Dec 28, 2017, 11:35 AM

This was disappointing given the presence of the Augustine quote in my initial tweet. I sent him a link to numerous quotes from Augustine making the same point. He replied

acmills237
@brandon_adams One down, how many more to go?
Dec 28, 2017, 11:42 AM

I find this kind of tone very unedifying, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to show more support for the statement. The issue is whether Israel was/is the church, or whether Israel was a type of the church.

Early Church

Melito of Sardis

“On the Passover” was a sermon about the typology of the Passover by Melito of Sardis (d. 180), a Hellenistic Jew who converted to Christianity. He goes into great detail to explain what a “model” (type) is (“a preliminary sketch [of] the future thing out of wax or clay or wood”). I highly recommend taking a few minutes to read the whole thing (here is a slightly better translation, but it is only a portion). Here are some excerpts:

The law is old, but the gospel is new; the type was for a time, but grace is forever…

The one [the sheep] was the model; the other [Christ] was found to be the finished product…

35. Beloved, no speech or event takes place without a pattern or design; every event and speech involves a pattern–that which is spoken, a pattern, and that which happens, a prefiguration–in order that as the event is disclosed through the prefiguration, so also the speech may be brought to expression through its outline.

36. Without the model, no work of art arises. Is not that which is to come into existence seen through the model which typifies it? For this reason a pattern of that which is to be is made either out of wax, or out of clay, or out of wood, in order that by the smallness of the model, destined to be destroyed, might be seen that thing which is to arise from it–higher than it in size, and mightier than it in power, and more beautiful than it in appearance, and more elaborate than it in ornamentation.

37. So whenever the thing arises for which the model was made, then that which carried the image of that future thing is destroyed as no longer of use…

39. Therefore, if it was like this with models of perishable objects, so indeed will it also be with those of imperishable objects. If it was like this with earthly things, so indeed also will it be with heavenly things. For even the Lord’s salvation and his truth were prefigured in the people, and the teaching of the gospel was proclaimed in advance by the law.

40. The people, therefore, became the model for the church, and the law a parabolic sketch. But the gospel became the explanation of the law and its fulfillment, while the church became the storehouse of truth.

41. Therefore, the type had value prior to its realization, and the parable was wonderful prior to its interpretation. This is to say that the people had value before the church came on the scene, and the law was wonderful before the gospel was brought to light.

42. But when the church came on the scene, and the gospel was set forth, the type lost its value by surrendering its significance to the truth, and the law was fulfilled by surrendering its significance to the gospel. Just as the type lost its significance by surrendering its image to that which is true by nature, and as the parable lost its significance by being illumined through the interpretation,

43. so indeed also the law was fulfilled when the gospel was brought to light, and the people lost their significance when the church came on the scene, and the type was destroyed when the Lord appeared. Therefore, those things which once had value are today without value, because the things which have true value have appeared…

45. The Jerusalem here below once had value, but now it is without value because of the Jerusalem from above. The meager inheritance once had value; now it is without value because of the abundant grace. For not in one place alone, nor yet in narrow confines, has the glory of God been established, but his grace has been poured out upon the uttermost parts of the inhabited world, and there the almighty God has taken up his dwelling place through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever. Amen.

Justin Martyr

Written around 150AD, Dialogue with Trypho is a Christian apologetic against the Jews. Justin shows how the church is the true circumcision, the true Israel, promised to Abraham, and prophesied throughout the Old Testament.

“No,” I said, looking towards Trypho, “since, if the law were able to enlighten the nations and those who possess it, what need is there of a new covenant? But since God announced beforehand that He would send a new covenant, and an everlasting law and commandment, we will not understand this of the old law and its proselytes, but of Christ and His proselytes, namely us Gentiles, whom He has illumined, as He says somewhere: ‘Thus saith the Lord, In an acceptable time have I heard Thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped Thee, and I have given Thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, and to inherit the deserted.’ What, then, is Christ’s inheritance? Is it not the nations? What is the covenant of God? Is it not Christ? As He says in another place: ‘Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the nations for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession.’ (CXXII)

“As, therefore, all these latter prophecies refer to Christ and the nations, you should believe that the former refer to Him and them in like manner… ‘Therefore, saith the Lord, I will raise up to Israel and to Judah the seed of men and the seed of beasts.’ And by Isaiah He speaks thus concerning another Israel: ‘In that day shall there be a third Israel among the Assyrians and the Egyptians, blessed in the land which the Lord of Sabaoth hath blessed, saying, blessed shall my people in Egypt and in Assyria be, and Israel mine inheritance.’ Since then God blesses this people, and calls them Israel, and declares them to be His inheritance, how is it that you repent not of the deception you practise on yourselves, as if you alone were the Israel, and of execrating the people whom God has blessed? For when He speaks to Jerusalem and its environs, He thus added: ‘And I will beget men upon you, even my people Israel; and they shall inherit you, and you shall be a possession for them; and you shall be no longer bereaved of them.’ ”

“What, then?” says Trypho [the Jew]; “are you Israel? and speaks He such things of you?”…

I continued: “Again in Isaiah, if you have ears to hear it, God, speaking of Christ in parable, calls Him Jacob and Israel. He speaks thus: ‘Jacob is my servant, I will uphold Him; Israel is mine elect, I will put my Spirit upon Him, and He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry, neither shall any one hear His voice in the street: a bruised reed He shall not break, and smoking flax He shall not quench; but He shall bring forth judgment to truth: He shall shine, and shall not be broken till He have set judgment on the earth. And in His name shall the Gentiles trust.’ As therefore from the one man Jacob, who was surnamed Israel, all your nation has been called Jacob and Israel; so we from Christ, who begat us unto God, like Jacob, and Israel, and Judah, and Joseph, and David, are called and are the true sons of God, and keep the commandments of Christ.” (CXXIII)

“I wish, sirs,” I said, “to learn from you what is the force of the name Israel.” And as they were silent, I continued: “I shall tell you what I know… the name Israel signifies this, A man who overcomes power; for Isra is a man overcoming, and El is power. And that Christ would act so when He became man was foretold by the mystery of Jacob’s wrestling with Him who appeared to him, in that He ministered to the will of the Father, yet nevertheless is God, in that He is the first-begotten of all creatures… But Israel was His name from the beginning, to which He altered the name of the blessed Jacob when He blessed him with His own name, proclaiming thereby that all who through Him have fled for refuge to the Father, constitute the blessed Israel. But you, having understood none of this, and not being prepared to understand, since you are the children of Jacob after the fleshly seed, expect that you shall be assuredly saved. But that you deceive yourselves in such matters, I have proved by many words. (CXXV)

[T]hose who were selected out of every nation have obeyed His will through Christ,—whom He calls also Jacob, and names Israel, —and these, then, as I mentioned fully previously, must be Jacob and Israel. (CXXX)

Jacob was called Israel; and Israel has been demonstrated to be the Christ, who is, and is called, Jesus. (CXXXIV)

“And when Scripture says, ‘I am the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, who have made known Israel your King,’ will you not understand that truly Christ is the everlasting King? For you are aware that Jacob the son of Isaac was never a king. And therefore Scripture again, explaining to us, says what king is meant by Jacob and Israel: (Is. 43:1-4). Then is it Jacob the patriarch in whom the Gentiles and yourselves shall trust? or is it not Christ? As, therefore, Christ is the Israel and the Jacob, even so we, who have been quarried out from the bowels of Christ, are the true Israelitic race. Is. 65:9-12

Such are the words of Scripture; understand, therefore, that the seed of Jacob now referred to is something else, and not, as may be supposed, spoken of your people. For it is not possible for the seed of Jacob to leave an entrance for the descendants of Jacob, or for [God] to have accepted the very same persons whom He had reproached with unfitness for the inheritance, and promise it to them again; but as there the prophet says, ‘And now, O house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of the Lord; for He has sent away His people, the house of Jacob, because their land was full, as at the first, of soothsayers and divinations;’ (Is. 2:5f) even so it is necessary for us here to observe that there are two seeds of Judah, and two races, as there are two houses of Jacob: the one begotten by blood and flesh, the other by faith and the Spirit. (CXXXV)

[T]he true spiritual Israel, and descendants of Judah, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham (who in uncircumcision was approved of and blessed by God on account of his faith, and called the father of many nations), are we who have been led to God through this crucified Christ, as shall be demonstrated while we proceed. (XI)

Blessed therefore are we who have been circumcised the second time with knives of stone. For your first circumcision was and is performed by iron instruments, for you remain hard-hearted; but our circumcision, which is the second, having been instituted after yours, circumcises us from idolatry and from absolutely every kind of wickedness by sharp stones, i.e., by the words [preached] by the apostles of the corner-stone cut out without hands… But you do not comprehend me when I speak these things; for you have not understood what it has been prophesied that Christ would do (CXIV)

Irenaeus

Written around 180AD, Against Heresies argues (amongst other things) that the God of the OT is the same God of the NT.

Chapter XXV.—Both covenants were prefigured in Abraham, and in the labour of Tamar; there was, however, but one and the same God to each covenant.

1. For thus it had behoved the sons of Abraham [to be], whom God has raised up to him from the stones, and caused to take a place beside him who was made the chief and the forerunner of our faith (who did also receive the covenant of circumcision, after that justification by faith which had pertained to him, when he was yet in uncircumcision, so that in him both covenants might be prefigured, that he might be the father of all who follow the Word of God, and who sustain a life of pilgrimage in this world, that is, of those who from among the circumcision and of those from among the uncircumcision are faithful, even as also “Christ is the chief corner-stone” sustaining all things); and He gathered into the one faith of Abraham those who, from either covenant, are eligible for God’s building. But this faith which is in uncircumcision, as connecting the end with the beginning, has been made [both] the first and the last. For, as I have shown, it existed in Abraham antecedently to circumcision, as it also did in the rest of the righteous who pleased God: and in these last times, it again sprang up among mankind through the coming of the Lord. But circumcision and the law of works occupied the intervening period.

[Editor’s Note:  the Gentile Church was the old religion and was Catholic; in Christ it became Catholic again: the Mosaic system [starting with circumcision, per Irenaeus] was a parenthetical thing of fifteen hundred years only. Such is the luminous and clarifying scheme of Irenæus]

[…]

3. For it was requisite that certain facts should be announced beforehand by the fathers in a paternal manner, and others prefigured by the prophets in a legal one, but others, described after the form of Christ, by those who have received the adoption; while in one God are all things shown forth. For although Abraham was one, he did in himself prefigure the two covenants, in which some indeed have sown, while others have reaped; for it is said, “In this is the saying true, that it is one ‘people’ who sows, but another who shall reap;” but it is one God who bestows things suitable upon both—seed to the sower, but bread for the reaper to eat. Just as it is one that planteth, and another who watereth, but one God who giveth the increase. For the patriarchs and prophets sowed the word [concerning] Christ, but the Church reaped, that is, received the fruit. For this reason, too, do these very men (the prophets) also pray to have a dwelling-place in it, as Jeremiah says, “Who will give me in the desert the last dwelling-place?” in order that both the sower and the reaper may rejoice together in the kingdom of Christ, who is present with all those who were from the beginning approved by God, who granted them His Word to be present with them.

Chapter XXII.—Christ did not come for the sake of the men of one age only, but for all who, living righteously and piously, had believed upon Him; and for those, too, who shall believe.

…2. For it was not merely for those who believed on Him in the time of Tiberius Cæsar that Christ came, nor did the Father exercise His providence for the men only who are now alive, but for all men altogether, who from the beginning, according to their capacity, in their generation have both feared and loved God, and practised justice and piety towards their neighbours, and have earnestly desired to see Christ, and to hear His voice. Wherefore He shall, at His second coming, first rouse from their sleep all persons of this description, and shall raise them up, as well as the rest who shall be judged, and give them a place in His kingdom. For it is truly “one God who” directed the patriarchs towards His dispensations, and “has justified the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith.” For as in the first we were prefigured, so, on the other hand, are they represented in us, that is, in the Church, and receive the recompense for those things which they accomplished.

Cyprian

Written in 248AD, Testimonies Against the Jews explains the relationship between Christianity and Judaism.

Preface

[T]he Jews, according to what had before been foretold, had departed from God, and had lost God’s favour, which had been given them in past time, and had been promised them for the future; while the Christians had succeeded to their place, deserving well of the Lord by faith, and coming out of all nations and from the whole world…

8. That the first circumcision of the flesh is made void, and the second circumcision of the spirit is promised instead.

In Jeremiah: “Thus saith the Lord to the men of Judah, and to them who inhabit Jerusalem, Renew newness among you, and do not sow among thorns: circumcise yourselves to your God, and circumcise the foreskin of your heart; lest my anger go forth like fire, and burn you up, and there be none to extinguish it.” Also Moses says: “In the last days God will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God.”…

19. That two peoples were foretold, the elder and the younger; that is, the old people of the Jews, and the new one which should consist of us.

In Genesis: “And the Lord said unto Rebekah, Two nations are in thy womb, and two peoples shall be separated from thy belly; and the one people shall overcome the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.” (Gen 25:23) [Note: This interpretation is found in numerous early church writings that I read]. Also in Hosea: “I will call them my people that are not my people, and her beloved that was not beloved. For it shall be, in that place in which it shall be called not my people, they shall be called the sons of the living God.” (Hos 2:23; 1:10)

Augustine

See extensive quotations here.

Reformers

As I explain in Calvin vs 1689 Federalism on Old vs New, the magisterial reformers’ perceived need to defend the state church model led them to depart from the Augustinian understanding of Israel. However, it can still be found in some (notably Congregationalists, who were not led astray by a need to defend a state church).

Owen

Answerably unto this twofold end of the separation of Abraham, there was a double seed allotted unto him; — a seed according to the flesh, separated to the bringing forth of the Messiah according unto the flesh; and a seed according to the promise, that is, such as by faith should have interest in the promise, or all the elect of God… It is true, the former carnal privilege of Abraham and his posterity expiring, on the grounds before mentioned, the ordinances of worship which were suited thereunto did necessarily cease also. And this cast the Jews into great perplexities, and proved the last trial that God made of them; for whereas both these, — namely, the carnal and spiritual privileges of Abraham’s covenant, — had been carried on together in a mixed way for many generations, coming now to be separated, and a trial to be made (Malachi 3) who of the Jews had interest in both, who in one only, those who had only the carnal privilege, of being children of Abraham according to the flesh, contended for a share on that single account in the other also, — that is, in all the promises annexed unto the covenant. But the foundation of their plea was taken away, and the church, unto which the promises belong, remained with them that were heirs of Abraham’s faith only.

The Oneness of the Church

 

The persons with whom this covenant is made are also expressed: “The house of Israel, and the house of Judah.”… Wherefore this house of Israel and house of Judah may be considered two ways:
[1.] As that people were the whole entire posterity of Abraham.

[2.] As they were typical, and mystically significant of the whole church of God.

Hence alone it is that the promises of grace under the old testament are given unto the church under these names, because they were types of them who should really and effectually be made partakers of them…

In the second sense the whole church of elect believers is intended under these denominations, being typified by them. These are they alone, being one made of twain, namely, Jews and Gentiles, with whom the covenant is really made and established, and unto whom the grace of it is actually communicated. For all those with whom this covenant is made shall as really have the law of God written in their hearts, and their sins pardoned, according unto the promise of it, as the people of old were brought into the land of Canaan by virtue of the covenant made with Abraham. These are the true Israel and Judah, prevailing with God, and confessing unto his name.

Hebrews 8:8 Commentary

Samuel Mather

The whole nation of the Jews. They were a typical people; their Church-state being very ceremonial and peculiar to those legal times, (Therefore now ceased and abolished) did adumbrate and shadow forth two things.

  1. Christ himself; hence Christ is called Israel, Isa. 49.3. By Israel is meant Christ, and all the faithful, as members of him their head.
  2. They were a type of the Church of God under the New Testament. Hence the Church is called Israel, Gal 6.16 and Rev 7. The twelve tribes of Israel are numbered up by name, to shew forth the Lord’s particular care of every one of his people in particular. That place is not meant properly of Old Israel, because it relates to the times of the Antichristian locusts; compare cap 7. with cap. 9.4.The analogy lies in this, that they were a peculiar people to the Lord, chosen and singled out by him from all the world: So is Christ the Lord’s chosen, Behold my servant whom I have chosen, mine elect in whom my Soul delighteth: So are all the Saints, 1 Pet 2.9. A royal nation, a peculiar people, gathered from among all nations, Rev 5.9. Hence the enemies of Israel were typical enemies; as Egypt and Babylon under the Old Testament, types of Antichristian enemies under the New: And the providences of God towards that people of Old, types and shadows of his intended future dispensations towards his people under the New; as you will see further when we come to speak of typical providences.

Samuel Mather on Israel as a type of the Church

Jonathan Edwards

That nation, that family of Israel according to the flesh, and with regard to that external and carnal qualification, were in some sense adopted by God to be his peculiar people, and his covenant people… On the whole, it is evident that the very nation of Israel, not as visible saints, but as the progeny of Jacob according to the flesh, were in some respect a chosen people, a people of God, a covenant people, an holy nation; even as Jerusalem was a chosen city, the city of God, a holy city, and a city that God had engaged by covenant to dwell in. Thus a sovereign and all-wise God was pleased to ordain things with respect to the nation of Israel…

That nation was a typical nation. There was then literally a land, which was a type of heaven, the true dwelling-place of God; and an external city, which was a type of the spiritual city of God; an external temple of God, which was a type of his spiritual temple. So there was an external people and family of God, by carnal generation, which was a type of his spiritual progeny. And the covenant by which they were made a people of God, was a type of the covenant of grace; and so is sometimes represented as a marriage-covenant.

Jonathan Edwards on the Nation of Israel as a Type of the Church

John Erskine

…as things were termed unclean, which were types or emblems of moral impurity, so the Jews were termed holy, not only because they were separated from other nations, but because they typified real Christians, who are in the fullest and noblest sense a holy nation, and a peculiar people (a). Types are visible things, different in their nature, from the spiritual things which they typify. If then the Jewish dispensation was typical, we may safely conclude, that the holiness of the Jewish nation being intended to typify the holiness of the Christian church, was of a different nature from it. And it is for this reason, that the Jewish dispensation is called the flesh and the letter, because persons and things in that dispensation, typified and represented persons and things under a more spiritual dispensation. (a) 1 Pet. ii. 9.

John Erskine’s “The Nature of the Sinai Covenant” (17-21)

Present Day

Gentry

Why is there so much judicial imagery in the book of Revelation? In Revelation 5, while he’s seated on the throne, he hands out a seven-sealed scroll, which I believe represents God’s divorce decree against Israel. It’s his bill of divorcement against Israel. He is divorcing this harlot so that He can take a new bride, the church. That’s the judicial imagery in Revelation.

@1:17:00 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sy7cEW4MJac

Strimple

All evangelical Christians are accustomed to viewing the Old Testament sacrifices and feasts and ceremnonies as being types, that is, teaching tools pointing forward to the work of Christ. Why then should the elements that we will consider now – the land of Canaan, the city of Jerusalem, the temple, the throne of David, the nation Israel itself – not be understood using the same interpretive insight that we use in interpreting the sacrifices and ceremonies?…

The true Israel is Christ… Since Christ is the true Israel, the true seed of Abraham, we who are in Christ by faith and the working of his Spirit are the true Israel, the Israel of faith, not of mere natural descent (Gal 3:7-9, 26-27, 29). Too often in meditating on this wonderful truth, we omit the all-important link in the chain of redemption that Christ himself is. We say: `Yes, the nation of Israel was the people of God in the old covenant. Now in the new covenant the believing church is the people of God.’ And thus we quickly run past (or we miss the blessed point entirely) the fact that we Christians are the Israel of God, Abraham’s seed, and the heirs to the promises, only because by faith, we are united to him who alone is the true Israel, Abraham’s one seed (Gal 3:16).

Three Views on the Millenium and Beyond (86-89)

Kline

[T]he socio-geo-political sector of the Israelite kingdom of God was a part of the total system of kingdom typology established through the covenantal constitution given to Israel in the law of Moses… Israel as a geo-political kingdom is… expressive of the restorative-redemptive principle, it is…a type of the antitypical kingdom of Christ, the Redeemer-King… This kingdom of Israel – not just the temple in its midst, but the kingdom of Israel as such, the kingdom as a national geo-political entity – was a redemptive product of God, a work of divine restoration, given as a prototype version of the kingdom of God in the perfect form it was to attain under the new covenant in the messianic antitype of that Israelite kingdom.

Comments on an Old-New Error

Horton

Chris Whisonant brought to my attention a rather pertinent quote from Michael Horton’s Pilgrim Theology.

Paul’s contrast between the heavenly and earthly Jerusalem in the allegory of Sarah and Hagar (Gal 4:21-31) redraws the boundaries of Israel around Jesus Christ. Earthly descent no longer means anything, since the Mosaic covenant is no longer in force and it could never annul or revise the earlier Abrahamic covenant, which promised blessing to the nations through the seed of Abraham and Sarah. As a result, the Jew-Gentile distinction no longer has any religious or ecclesial significance (Gal 3:15-4:7). It is the promise, not the law, that determines inheritance – and this is true now for everyone. “This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the chidren of the promise are counted as offspring” (Rom 9:8). The church is not a parenthesis in the history of redemption between national Israel’s rejection and embrace of the kingdom. Rather, the national theocracy was a parenthesis in what Paul calls the mystery of the church (Eph 1:9; 3:4; 5:32; Col 1:26). The church is Israel – the truly circumcised remnant within the nation that clung to God’s promises even through the exile, now with natural branches broken off and foreign branches grafted in.

Clark

Israel was not, however, God’s natural Son. That much was evident in the wilderness, in Canaan and finally in the ejection when God changed the name of his “son” Israel to “Lo Ammi, not my people” (Hos 1.9-10)

God disinherited his adopted, temporary, national “son” Israel as a national people precisely because God never intended to have a permanent earthly, national people. After the captivity, they had largely fulfilled their role in the history of salvation. As a sign of this fact, the Glory-Spirit departed from the temple. This is because their chief function was to serve as a type and shadow of God’s natural Son, Jesus the Messiah (Heb 10.1-4).

It is the argument of this essay that Jesus Christ is the true Israel of God and that everyone who is united to him by grace alone, through faith alone becomes, by virtue of that union, the true Israel of God. This means that it is wrong-headed to look for, expect, hope for or desire a reconstitution of national Israel in the future. The New Covenant church is not something which God instituted until he could recreate a national people in Palestine, but rather, God only had a national people temporarily (from Moses to Christ) as a prelude to and foreshadowing of the creation of the New Covenant in which the ethnic distinctions which existed under Moses were fulfilled and abolished (Ephesians 2.11-22; Col 2.8-3.11).

The Israel of God

A former student of R. Scott Clark’s noted how he expressed this in class.

brianonstead
Dr. Clark taught in class that Israel was the parenthesis, not the church and that The church is the Israel of God.
Dec 29, 2017, 12:22 PM
brianonstead
He would add qualifications to that whereby he differs with Baptists, but he at least holds to this basic truth.
Dec 29, 2017, 3:38 PM
brianonstead
He said it in the context of where covenant theology differs from Dispensationalism. Dispy says that the church is the parenthesis and Israel is the main show, so to speak. However, cov theo holds to the opposite.
Dec 29, 2017, 3:41 PM

Where Clark and Horton “differ with Baptists” is they try to argue that “theocratic Israel” (the parenthesis) is only Mosaic and is somehow distinct and separate from Abraham’s descendents in the Covenant of Circumcision. But this distinction is entirely untenable. As Irenaeus noted, the parenthetical intervening period began with circumcision. A more biblical version of Clark’s statement above would be “God only had a national people temporarily (from Abraham to Christ) as a prelude to and foreshadowing of the creation of the New Covenant.” The magisterial reformers argued for national holiness and thus a national church from Abraham because theocratic Israel is thoroughly Abrahamic (see Gen 17:7; Ex. 2:24-25; 6:6-7; 19:4-6; Ezek 16:8; Deut 4:32-40; 29:10-13; Ps. 147:19-20; Amos 3:1-2; Hosea 1:9; Deu 7:12-13; Jer 11:3-5). So is true Spiritual Israel. Both are the offspring of Abraham – one as type, the other as antitype. Both correspond to two different Abrahamic promises, as Augustine explained at the beginning. Acknowleding this undoes Horton and Clark’s paedobaptistism. They want to argue that Israel was the Church and that Israel was a type of the Church, but they cannot have their cake and eat it too.

For further reading:

Overview of 1689 Federalism on the Reformed Northwest Podcast

December 21, 2017 4 comments

I recently joined the Reformed Northwest Podcast for a 5-part overview of 1689 Federalism. I’d love to hear any comments/thoughts/feedback/criticism/disagreement you may have.

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