Troublesome Topic: Was the Davidic Covenant Conditional or Unconditional?

Lesson 4 of 4

At first glance this covenant established between God and David appears not to have any conditions. However, if you look closely, you can find elements of conditionality even in supposedly unconditional covenants, making the issue moot. If we could ask David what He thought about the debate over conditional or unconditional covenants, he would likely respond, “What are you talking about? You’re focusing on the wrong thing because you’re asking the wrong questions.” Instead of asking, “was there anything that the person was required to do,” we should ask, “what characterized the relationship?” The important thing was the relationship.

As already stated, this covenant with David was still under the umbrella of the prior covenant of God with His people from earlier generations. David was still expected to fulfill that covenant with all is covenant conditions. However, God also wanted to make a special connection with David. Therefore, this is part of the major covenant referred to generally as the “old covenant/old testament,” and a special connection with one man.

As a result of the sins of Solomon and other descendants of David, the physical throne was eventually taken from his family, showing that God was indeed looking for obedience and loyalty.

It may be hard to understand how God could promise to make David’s dynasty last forever, and then take the throne from his family a few centuries later. It may seem that God went back on His word. This dilemma actually teaches us two important truths:

1. There are always conditions man must obey.

There are always things God expects of us; no one gets a free ride to heaven. Instead of looking for how little work we can do and still get to heaven, we should see how fast we can run toward God. Instead of being afraid of the hard work involved in spiritual growth, we should welcome it because that is the only way we will grow spiritually.

2. Sometimes a physical reality is just a shadow of a reality that, though unseen, is even more real.

David’s descendants reigned for a very long time. They reigned for four hundred years; this was much longer than even the longest dynasties of Egypt or any other ancient ruling family. But they did not reign forever. This part of the covenant was fulfilled by Jesus, the Messiah, the one to whom the singular “his” refers when God said “and I will establish his kingdom,” (II Sam 7:12) switching from David’s descendants, plural, to just one descendant. There was a bigger picture, not just the physical presence of David’s blood relatives on a throne in Israel. There were layers of truth, and the most important layers were those that did not come to mind upon first hearing the words. Many times what God does in the visible realm is a hint of what He is doing in the spiritual realm. Someday God would send someone who, in some way not disclosed to David, would establish a kingdom more permanent and more powerful than that of King David himself. This powerful king, who would rule forever, would be known as “the son of David.”

The next lesson in the full and medium series on Covenants is: The Covenant Has Been Violated