His Deep Humility

2 Samuel 7

In the preceding chapter we looked upon David while he was permitted to enjoy a brief season of repose, following the trying experiences through which he had passed ere he came to the throne. He might well have found in the many trials and vicissitudes of his past life an excuse for luxurious repose now. But devout souls will consecrate their leisure as well as their toil to God, and will serve with thank-offerings in peace, Him whom they invoked with earnest supplication in battle. As another has said, "Prosperity is harmless only when it is accepted as an opportunity for fresh forms of devotion, and not as an occasion for idle self-indulgence." Thus it was with our hero. He was not spoiled by success; his head was not made giddy by the height he now occupied; the Lord was not forgotten when prosperity smiled upon him. Instead, he was deeply concerned about the honor of God, especially at there being no suitable place for His public worship.

As David sat alone in his palace, meditating, there can be little doubt that one so conversant with the Scriptures as he was would turn in thought to the ancient promise, "When He giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety, then there shall be a place which the Lord your God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there" (Deut. 12:10, 11). It was that word, we believe, which caused our hero to say unto Nathan, "See, now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains" (2 Sam. 7:2). Israel’s king felt more or less rebuked by his own ease and comfort, and regarded his tranquility not as a season for selfish indolence, but rather as a call to serious reflection upon the interests of God’s cause or kingdom. He could not bear the thought of lavishing more upon self than upon the service of Him to whom he owed everything.

The response made by the Lord unto the spiritual exercises of His servant was indeed blessed. Through the prophet He gave David a much fuller revelation of what was in His heart toward him: "I will set up thy seed after thee . . . I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever . . . thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever" (vv. 10-12). God made known His purpose to confer upon the posterity of David a special favor, which He had not granted even to Abraham, Moses, or Joshua, namely, establish them upon the throne of Israel. Moreover, it was declared of his seed who should be set up after him, "He shall build an house for My name" (v. 13). This will be considered in more detail under "The Divine Covenants" (when we reach the "Davidic"): suffice it now to say, the ultimate reference was a spiritual one in the person and kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.

While there was much in the revelation now granted to David which was well calculated to evoke gratitude and praise, yet there was one omission from it that presented a real test of his submission, humility and patience. While there was abundant cause for thanksgiving, that his posterity should continue to occupy the throne, and his own son build an house for Jehovah’s name (and fame), yet that he was denied this honor, had been resented by one who was proud and filled with a sense of his own importance. David’s longings were not to be realized during his own lifetime, and though he should be permitted to gather together much of the material for the future temple, yet he would not be permitted to see the finished product itself. Here, then, was a real trying of his character, and it is blessed to see how he endured and met the same.

How often it falls out that one sows and another reaps: one set of men labor, and another generation is permitted to enter into the benefits of their toil. Nor should we complain at this, seeing that our sovereign and all-wise God has so ordered it. David did not complain, nor did he manifest any petulant disappointment at the crowning of his hopes being deferred to a future time. Instead, as we shall see, he sweetly bowed to God’s pleasure and adored Him for the same. Ah, my readers, our prayers may yet move God to send a gracious revival, yet that happy event may not come during our lifetime. The faithful labors of God’s servants today may not immediately transform the present "wilderness" state of Zion into a fruitful garden, yet if they be the means of plowing and harrowing the ground as a necessary preliminary thereto, ought we not to gladly acquiesce?

In the passage which is now to be before us, we behold the effects which God’s wondrous revelation through Nathan had upon the soul of David. "Then went king David in, and sat before the Lord; and he said, Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that Thou hast brought me hitherto?" (2 Sam. 7:18). Inexpressibly blessed is this. Such tidings as had just fallen on his ears would have puffed up many a man, filled him with a sense of his own importance, and caused him to act arrogantly toward his fellows. Far otherwise was it with "the man after God’s own heart." Filled with joyful amazement at Jehovah’s infinite condescension, David at once left the royal palace and betook himself to the humble tent which housed that sacred ark, there to pour out his heart in adoration and praise. There is nothing like a keeling sense of God’s sovereign, free and rich grace, to melt the soul, humble the heart, and stir unto true and acceptable worship.

"Then went king David in, and sat before the Lord" (2 Sam. 7:18). This is in designed contrast from verse 1: there the king "sat in his house"; here he is seen in the tabernacle, before Jehovah. The word "sat before the Lord," probably refers to his continuance in the tabernacle, rather than to the posture in which he prayed. "And he said, Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that Thou hast brought me hitherto?" (v. 18). How few kings there are who have such a realization of their lowliness as this! All sense of personal greatness vanished when David came into the presence of the great Jehovah. Ah, my reader, when the Lord is truly before us, "I" sinks into utter insignificance! But it is only as we are absorbed with His perfections—His infinitude, His majesty, His omnipotency—that self will be lost sight of.

"Who am I? O Lord God? and what is my house?" How these words bring before us the deep humility of David! Truthfully could he say, "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty" (Ps. 131:1). A number of illustrations of this lovely grace may be cited from the record of David’s life. His being content to follow his mean vocation as a shepherd, till God called him to a higher office. He never affected the royal diadem, neither would it have been any grief of heart to him had God passed him by, and made another king. His words to Abishai concerning Saul, "Destroy him not: for who can stretch forth his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?" (1 Sam. 26:9), show plainly that he was not coveting the crown, and was quite content for the son of Kish to continue occupying the throne of Israel.

It is beautiful to see how often this spirit of lowliness and self-abnegation appears in "the man after God’s own heart." When he went forth to engage Goliath, it was not in the confidence of his own skill, but with the holy assurance "This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand" (1 Sam. 17:46). When Saul lay helpless before him, he took no credit unto himself, but said to the king, "the Lord had delivered thee today into mine hand" (1 Sam. 24:10). When Abigail was used to quiet his passionate spirit, he exclaimed, "blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me" (1 Sam. 25:32); and when Nabal was dead, "Blessed be the Lord, that bath pleaded the cause of my reproach . . . and hath kept His servant from evil" (v. 39). Alter his notable victory over the Amalekites he said, "Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the Lord hath given us, who bath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand" (1 Sam. 30:23). humility is that grace which gives the Lord His proper place.

Distrusting his own wisdom, we find David "enquiring of the Lord" again and again (1 Sam. 23:2, 4; 30:8; 2 Sam. 2:1; 5:19; etc.). This is another sure mark of genuine humility: that spirit which is afraid to trust in our own knowledge, experience and powers, and seeks counsel and direction from above. When for his prowess Saul called him to court and promised to give him Michal to wife, he answered, "Seemeth it to you a light thing to be a king’s son-in-law, seeing that I am a poor man, and lightly esteemed?" (1 Sam. 18:23). Note the love he bore to those who admonished him for his sins: "Let the righteous smite me: it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head" (Ps. 141:5): far meaner people do not take it so kindly! In all his heroical acts he sought not his own honour, but God’s: "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory" (Ps. 115:1).

Mark his submission to God under chastisement: "And the king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, He will bring me again, and show me both it, and His habitation: But if He thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let Him do to me as seemeth good unto Him" (2 Sam. 15:25, 26). In all his dealings with God, he dared not trust in his own righteousness, but wholly took refuge in the covenant of grace: "If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" (Ps. 130:3). "Enter not into judgment with Thy servant: for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified" (Ps. 143:2). When a man can find all this in himself, he may honestly say, "Lord, my heart is not haughty" (Ps. 131:1). Yet, David was not perfect, and the remains of pride still indwelt him, as they do each of us—till we get rid of the flesh, we shall never be completely rid of pride. Psalm 30:6 and 2 Samuel 24:2 show his vainglory creeping out.

We have dwelt the more largely upon David’s humility, because in this day of Laodicean conceit and boasting, it needs to be emphasized that, as a general rule, those whom God has used most mightily have not been men who were distinguished for abnormal natural powers or gifts, but instead by deep humility. See this admirable trait in Abraham: "I am but dust and ashes" (Gen. 18:27); in Moses, "Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?" (Ex. 3: 11); in Christ’s forerunner, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30); in Paul, "I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God" (1 Cor. 15:9). O that Divine grace may make us "little in our own eyes."

But again we would notice it was while David was "before the Lord" that he said, "Who am I?" So too it was while he was in the immediate presence of the Lord that Abraham confessed himself to be "but dust and ashes." In like manner, it was when the great I Am revealed Himself at the burning bush that Moses asked, "Who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh?"! It was when Job could say, "Now mine eye seeth Thee"—in all Thine awful sovereignty (see context)—that he cried, "wherefore I abhor myself" (Job 45:5).

"And what is my house, that Thou hast brought me hitherto?" David continued in the same lowly strain. His "house" pertained to the royal tribe; he was the immediate descendant of the prince of Judah, so that he was connected with the most honorable family in Israel; yet such fleshly distinctions were held lightly by him. The "Thou hast brought me hitherto"—to the throne, to rest from all his enemies—gave to God the rightful glory. "It intimates that he could not have reached this himself by his own management, if God had not brought him to it. All our attainments must be looked upon as God’s vouchsafements" (Matthew Henry).

"And this was yet a small thing in Thy sight, O Lord God; but Thou hast spoken also of Thy servant’s house for a great while to come. And is this the manner of man, O Lord God?" (v. 19). Having owned the goodness of the Lord upon him "hitherto," David now turns to comment upon the glorious things which God had promised for the future. The latter so immeasurably outweighed the former, that he sums up his own establishment over the kingdom as "this was yet a small thing in Thy sight, O Lord God." We believe this throws light upon the word "sat" in the previous verse, which has presented a difficulty unto the commentators—who point out that this is the only place in Scripture where a saint is represented as being seated while engaged in prayer. But are we not rather to regard the term as denoting that David was in an attitude of most carefully surveying the wonderful riches of divine grace toward him, instead of defining his posture while engaged in his devotions?

The whole of 2 Samuel 7 is to be viewed as the blessed and instructive sequel to what is presented to us in the opening verse. God had tenderly given His servant a season of rest that lie might receive a fuller revelation of what was in His heart toward him. And now he is in the sacred tabernacle, pondering over what he had heard through Nathan. As he meditated, divine light and understanding broke in upon him, so that he was enabled, in measure at least, to penetrate the mysterious depths of that wonderful prophecy. The golden future was now opened to him, shining with more than earthly glory and bliss. "He beheld in spirit another Son than Solomon, another Temple than that built of stones and cedar, another Kingdom than the earthly one on whose throne he sat. He beholds a sceptre and a crown, of which his own on Mount Zion were only feeble types—dim and shadowy images" (Krummacher’s David and the God man).

Beautifully does this come out in his next words: "And is this the manner of man, O Lord God? And what can David say more unto Thee? for Thou, Lord God, knowest Thy servant. For Thy word’s sake, and according to Thine own heart, hast Thou done all these great things, to make Thy servant know them" (vv. 19-2 1)—in the light of which knowledge, he no doubt penned the fortieth, forty-fifth and one hundred tenth Psalms. The last clause of verse 19 should be translated, more literally, "This is the law of the Man, the Lord God," namely, "The Man" of Psalm 8;5, 6 and of Psalm 80:17! David was now given to realize that the blessed promises which had been given to him through the prophet would be made good in the person of the Messiah, who should yet issue from his own loins, who would be "The Man," yet none other than "the Lord God" incarnate. Yes, God reveals His secrets to the lowly, but hides them from those who are wise and prudent in their own esteem.