Study Guide: A King-Centered Covenant

Sunday July 14, 2019 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

This week Greg goes through the covenant God made with king David, and touches on some of the foundational beliefs of Woodland Hills involving finding security only from Jesus instead of human kings, and how God always finds a way to bring beauty out of our sins.

Extended Summary:

Today we look at the Davidic covenant. This was the first covenant that was King-centered, made with king David. The message behind this story today is a foundational belief of Woodland Hills church. This perspective is often neglected in the American church, and it may be different from what you are used to, so if it is, please keep an open mind, because this perspective is biblical.

There is something distinctive about the covenants that came after Adam and Eve, in that they were all predicated on human rebellion. For example, the Mosaic covenant we heard about last week is based on the rebellion of Israel worshipping a golden lamb, and the Noahic covenant was preceded by humanity being so fallen that God decided to flood the world and wipe them all out. With the exception of the first covenant with Adam and Eve, all the rest of the covenants God makes with humanity are accommodations, not his ideal plan, but trying to work with us.

This is also true of the Davidic covenant, which was king-centered. It comes out of human rebellion because God did not even want Israel to have a king. He wanted Israel to put on display his original design for human beings, where love and rulership flows from God to humans to the earth and the animals. But notice that while God gave humans rulership over the earth and animals, this was not rulership over not one another. That’s because God was to be their one ruler.

In the Ancient Near East cultures that Israel arose out of, the singular individual who a god would covenant with and was made in God’s image was the king. He was believed to be made in the image of their god, and was anointed by that god, and he was in turn the center of the nation’s religious system.

But the Jewish biblical authors had the audacity to say this was true about everyone! We all were blessed with God’s spirit, all were made in God’s image, and all of us were to serve out his will in the world. So by the ancient near east definitions, we are all kings and queens. And a king and queen by definition can’t be ruled by someone that is their equal. God alone was to be our king and source of light, and our job is to overflow with blessings toward one another and the earth / animal kingdom.

All hierarchies of power and privilege that come with our current (broken) understanding of rulership come after the fall. All hatred and violence and wars and dominance and divisions between humanity as well as between humans and the earth and animals started with the fall. God wanted Israel to be different. He wanted us to be the answer to the question of, “what does it look like for God alone to be the king of his people?”

So in the beginning, the only rulers Israel had were the elders and judges who mostly settled disputes by applying the law. This system didn’t actually work out too well (see the book of Judges), but at least it kept them from having a king.

But Samuel who was considered a very wise judge, and he was getting old. He had three sons who were ungodly, corrupt idiots. And surrounding nations had big militaries, so the people said “we need a king.”

1 Samuel 8:4-7, 9

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.
Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights”

He warned them, but they insisted. And the thing is, God does not coerce. So he accommodated them.

Accommodating kingship in the ANE was a HUGE change because in the Ancient Near East, the king was center of religious system. King was center of all of it, the image of god, son of god, it was all about that king. So when God accepts human kingship, he is accepting (reluctantly) this whole broken king-centered system which was premised on rebellion. Just like Jesus does on Calvary; by accepting human kingship, God stoops to meet us where we’re at, bear the sin of his people and takes on the ugliness of our sin.

To put your trust in human ruler is to reject God as king. If you get your sense of identity and security from your king, you cannot find security in God. This is what Matthew was talking about in Matthew 6:24 when he said you cannot serve two masters. You can’t, not when one of them is God. None of our trust should be in human rulers or systems of government.

To trust in a human king is to not trust in God as king. The two are antithetical to one another. You can’t do both. None of our trust should be in human kings. All of our trust should be in Jesus Christ.

This does not mean you can’t vote. Just means we should be careful. America is relatively good, compared to many places, but don’t forget it too is the product of a broken world. This cannot be not where our hope is. Wherever you are, your confidence should be in Jesus. Your allegiance should be singular to him.

Amid all this toxicity and brokenness, God’s question for us is… can we be a people who put on display something different? What does it look like to have a people who refuse to have their minds conformed to Fox News or MSNBC? A people whose love for each other is greater than their differences. Who don’t put their trust in laws or bombs or militaries, but the power of the cross. Putting our faith not in power of our laws or government, but in the power of the cross. Our job is to show the world what that looks like.

So, God refuses to choose the king for them, he lets them choose. They choose Saul — because he was tall and handsome. God made an effort to work with him. Anoints him and worked in god faith. But Saul turned out to be insecure and neurotic, and he eventually rejected God. So God withdrew his spirit from him, and Saul basically went crazy, descended into his own black hole of paranoia and ended up killing himself.

But God had a plan B, because he always has a contingency plan. His plan B was David, a weak little shepherd boy that everyone else overlooked.

2 Samuel 7:11-16

“The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’”

Some thought this passage about descendants could possibly be about Solomon who was the son of David who would inherit throne, but it can’t be about him — Solomon did inherit the throne and build a temple, but neither were eternal. After temple destroyed Israel essentially didn’t exist. There was one king who did fulfill all of this. Jesus Christ. He alone fulfills every element of this prophecy and brings it to life.

Note the way this ends, “My love will never be taken away from him.” Unlike Saul, nothing can separate us from the love of our only true king, Jesus Christ. Of his kingdom there will be no end. No human king can do that, not even ours. Of course the Babylonians and Asyrians and Romans and every empire through history thought they had a kingdom that would be without end. They all tried and all had 100% failure, because they all come to an end. And so will ours. So our trust must be in Jesus Christ, the king of kings and the lord of lords whose kingdom will never end.

Jesus wears the fallen-world identity of kingship as a crown, as part of his very identity. But all kingship is all based on rebellion. He took this ugly, corrupt, fallen, God-rejecting concept of kingship and found a way to weave it into his redemptive plan, wearing it as a crown. He completely transforms meaning of king and messiah. This is him saying, “If you can’t come up to my level, I’ll come down to yours.” He does not just tolerate it but makes it a centerpiece of his identity. He says, “If you want a king, here I am. I am your king.”

Only God can do this, creating the perfect king out a broken, God-rejecting concept, bringing beauty out of ashes, hope out of despair, victory out of defeat.

So given all of this, what might God be able to do with all the sinful garbage in your past if you just gave him a chance?

This is what God does! He comes down to where we’re at and says, “Okay, let’s start here.” He takes all the ugly stuff that never should have happened and turns it into something beautiful and redemptive.

The enemy would have you wear your sin like a weight around your neck. That sentiment is of the devil! Never of God. God says, if you work with me, I will take this thing that is so ugly, so shameful, and form it into something more beautiful than you’ve ever seen.

To illustrate this, Greg shared the story of a woman he met at a church he spoke at some years ago. All the time he was preaching, she wept openly, wailing and crying, “Thank you Jesus”. Afterward, the other minister there explained to Greg that years ago she had sold her body for drugs, and eventually had sold her newborn infant in exchange for meth. Then she received the Word, and learned that even that ultimate sin of hers had been forgiven, and she hasn’t stopped crying tears of joy since. That woman now evangelizes to women on the streets, saving lives of others who have hit rock bottom. Only God can turn something so ugly that you can barely speak it, into a badge of qualification to preach with unmatched honesty and move people to accept him.

Our God wants to break these chains with his love. Let’s start here. How can we take this ugly thing and turn it into something wonderful?

Reflection Questions: