The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” Psalm 110.1
An eternal gift
With the accession of David to the throne of Israel, the vision of God’s coming Kingdom takes on a new clarity and expansiveness, as David ponders the implications of God’s promise and his own calling as king over Israel.
I think it is safe to say that David’s vision of the Kingdom of God was grounded in the understanding of his forebears. David was a man of God’s Word. Thus, he would have been familiar with the ideas relating to a rule of God, through His people, over all the earth that previous generations of the people of God had glimpsed and pursued. He would also have had the benefit of seeing at first hand the calamitous attempt of King Saul at establishing a rule over Israel; this would have been the “how not to” part of David’s preparation for reign.
But it was God’s direct revelation to Him through the prophet Nathan that began to precipitate in David’s mind a clearer and more expansive vision of what God was planning to do, and how. In his response to Nathan’s proclamation we can discern four general parameters of understanding which, as we shall see, guide all subsequent development of the vision of God’s Kingdom.
These are, (1) David’s understanding that the Kingdom God intends to develop comes from Him as a gift to His people, as a manifestation of His covenant faithfulness (2 Sam. 7.21, 24, 27); (2) that this Kingdom is rooted in and dependent upon eternal verities – truths and conditions existing in and emanating from a realm not of this world (vv. 21, 22, 25, 28); (3) that, nevertheless, God’s intention for His Kingdom is that it should come to expression on earth and engage all the nations of the world (vv. 19, 23), and this through the agency of God’s King Who is also, in some sense, God’s son (v. 14); and (4) that there is to be continuous and vital interaction between God and the people to whom He gives His Kingdom, that they might discern His will, know His protection and provision, and glorify Him in all their Kingdom activities, and that central to this interaction is the work of God’s King and Son (vv. 23, 27, 29).
Let’s examine each of these ideas a bit more, looking to the psalms of David to see how his understanding developed as he sought and served the Lord throughout his reign as King of Israel.
The Kingdom is a gift from God
David understood the coming Kingdom of God in the way he himself had come to know. Who was he? And who was his household, that God should seek him out to be king over his people (2 Sam. 7.18)? Granted, God had declared through Jacob that a king and dynasty would descend through Judah to rule all the nations (Gen. 49.8-11), but there was no reason for David to think, growing up in a common household in Bethlehem, that somehow that blessing might descend to him.
The giving of God’s Kingdom is thus an act of sovereign grace. He comes to His people, the King of Glory, to enter in among them and establish His good and perfect rule in righteousness and peace (Ps. 24). Their duty is to open to Him and submit to His rule, that His blessings may flourish among them. He Who chose Abraham and graciously redeemed Israel from slavery was now intending to come to them and establish His rule of glory and power in their midst, through a king selected by His own sovereign grace and wisdom (Ps. 144.9-15).
As God had led Israel through the wilderness and the conquest of Canaan, now He would also establish His presence among them, receive their glory and praise, and continue to subdue the nations to His divine economy through the Kingdom He establishes with His people (Ps. 68). This unfathomable, good, and glorious gift is to be received with praise and thanks by Israel and all the kingdoms of the earth: “O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God; sing praises to the Lord…he is the one who gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God!” (Ps. 68.32, 35)
This Kingdom is grounded in eternal verities and conditions
David understood the progress of God’s rule and blessings on earth to be the direct result of His rule in heaven, beyond the material plane, where He is seated in glory and power, exercising dominion over all the earth and all creation (Pss. 9.7-20; 10.16-18). God is unchanging; His rule is settled and fixed in heaven. Whatever may be His will there is what He intends to accomplish on earth as well – justice, righteousness, and abundant blessing for those who trust in Him.
God’s Kingdom is “an everlasting kingdom” and His dominion “endures throughout all generations” (Ps. 145.13). Changing conditions on earth, the indifference or rebelliousness of men, or even the unfaithfulness of His people do not change what God intends to do. His determination will be done on earth, as it is in heaven, for, as an eternal King, He will not suffer the wickedness of men to continue forever before His eyes.
David understood that the Law of God was thus critical for bringing the will of God to pass for the blessing of His people (Ps. 19). The Law of God encodes the mind and will of God. Only by reading, meditating on, studying, and obeying the Law of God could God’s people obtain all that He had promised to them and all that He was resolved to do by bringing His eternal reign to bear on earth as it is in heaven. The prayer of God’s people should thus ever be, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Ps. 19.14).
The Kingdom is to have earthly expression
The rule of God, which David saw, was to be extended as a blessing for all mankind (2 Sam. 7:19). Centered on God’s rule from within the midst of His people (Ps. 24), the Kingdom God was establishing called for the subjection of all nations to the holy and righteous and good purposes of God (Ps. 2). God rules over and judges all the nations; those that submit to Him know true blessing and happiness (Pss. 9.7, 8; 33.10-12).
The King of this expansive reign is regarded as the Son of God (Ps. 2). He rules over the nations at the right hand of God, subduing His enemies and advancing His reign, through His obedient people, like the refreshing dew of the morning (Ps. 110). All creation comes under the rule of God and His King (Ps. 29), and wherever the rule of God spreads on earth, it brings prosperity, justice, and peace to the nations (Ps. 72: if we take this, as I do, to be one of David’s final psalms, devoted to Solomon, cf. v. 20).
Thus, the people of God should ever pray, “Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son!” (Ps. 72.1)
This Kingdom flourishes through the interaction of heaven and earth
The entire psalter of David testifies to the nature, importance, and power available through this communion between God and His people. He speaks to them, and guides them in His way. They cry out to Him, and He hears and delivers them. He offers them precious and magnificent promises. They pursue those blessings by resolving to obey His Word. He delivers them from their enemies and hears their cries from renewal when they have drifted from Him. He spreads a banquet table for His people, in the very presence of their enemies, so that, as they feast with Him, none shall make them afraid, and none shall thwart the purposes of His divine economy.
All these blessings rest with the King Whom God has chosen to set over His people (Pss. 2, 110). As the people love and serve their anointed King, they are able to go forth and proclaim His rule and bring the blessings of it to all the nations of the earth.
Thus the people of God must ever resolve, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Ps. 63.1).
A framework for future development
David, like no one else before him, established a framework for thinking about the nature and purpose of God’s Kingdom, and for setting the hearts of God’s people to seek that Kingdom as their highest priority. As we turn to the prophets, then to the Lord Jesus and the Apostles, we shall see, with increasingly clarity, how the outline of the Kingdom, which David described, becomes fuller and more complete as the history of God’s redemptive work continues.
- Why do you suppose so much of David’s thinking about the Kingdom of God was composed in liturgical literature – the psalms? What does this suggest to us about knowing and seeking the Kingdom of God as our first priority in all things (Matt. 6.33)?
- David taught that the Law of God was crucial to know the blessings of God’s rule (cf. Ps. 19, etc.). Do you think we can expect to know the blessings of God’s Kingdom if we fail to take the Law as seriously as David did (cf. Ps. 1)? Why or why not?
- Using the four points that define the parameters of the Kingdom of God as David envisioned it, see if you can put together a single statement, summarizing all we’d considered thus far concerning the Biblical vision of the coming Kingdom of God.
T. M. Moore