“The Son of David…” After this look at Jesus as the Son of Abraham, let us devote a little attention to the nature of the promises made to king David, and the way they are fulfilled in Christ, the Son of David. If Abraham is the father of faith, the first in the line of paternity for the people of God, David is the human “apex” of this line, the high point in the development of God’s promises to his people. For in and through David, God’s work in the heart of his people reaches the point at which they can await, in expectation, for the definitive coming of the Messiah. The promise made to Abraham, we already saw, was universal: “as numerous as the stars of heaven or the sands on the seashore,” “all families of nations blessed through you” (cf. Gen 22:17; 12:3). But this was just a germ, a seed, yet to undergo a great deal of development (symbolized by the covenantal sign of circumcision); but in the full establishment of the kingdom under the headship of king David, Israel was prepared to accept her vocation as the locus of God’s incarnation in history. She was prepared to welcome the “Son of David,” the true King.
It is important to note, indeed, that the covenant with Abraham and the covenant with David are inseparably intertwined. We could say that, in David, God begins to fulfill many of the promises he first made to Abraham, while also pointing forward to the “son” of David who shall do what David himself cannot do: namely, be a true universal king, not just as a servant of God, but as the true Son of God, eternal and without limitation or termination. For God said to Abraham that he would give him a “great name” and that he would be a “great nation,” indeed the father of a multitude of nations: “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you” (Gen 17:4-6). Before the people of Israel has even been born, still in the loins of Abraham, God promises reign, that kings shall spring from Abraham’s line. And after centuries, in David, a king finally arises for Israel, a king of God’s own choosing and after God’s own heart (cf. 1 Sam 13:1), whose kingship rests not on the initiative of men but on the covenant choice of God.
Despite the fact that the kingship in Israel first arose from infidelity, namely the people crying out for a king so that they could “be like the other nations” (cf. 1 Sam 8:5), and warned by God that they were asking for a painful yoke, since God himself wanted to be their king, the earthly kingship is then blessed and sanctified by God to be the waiting-space for the definitive coming of his Son. For he indeed comes to reign over them and to fulfill, thus, his promises made originally to Abraham. And this kingship in which David is instituted, as we see in 2 Samuel, God raises to the level of a covenant anticipating the new and everlasting Covenant, in which not a human man, always weak and frail, but God himself, incarnate as man, shall indeed be their king: “He dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth upon a cloudless morning, like rain that makes the grass to sprout from the earth. Yes, does not my house stand so with God? For he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure” (2 Sam 23:4-5).
Let us take a glance at these prophetic words of God to David now, to see how they are super-abundantly fulfilled in Christ Jesus in a way beyond our own imagining, in a way more beautiful and rich than we could have hoped or expected, but entirely appropriate to the God who is abundant and all-surpassing Love. The scene comes after centuries of strife, purification, and growth for the Israelite people, after they have been settled in the promised land, and after the conflict between the corrupt king, Saul, and the chosen king, David, is resolved. At last Israel has come to peace, and the first thing that David does is take back the ark of the covenant, the tabernacle of God’s presence in which he dwells in the midst of his people, and bring it in procession into the holy city, Jerusalem. (To see Mary as the new ark of the covenant, the dwelling-place of God in Jesus Christ, read these two passages side by side, and note their amazing parallels: 2 Samuel 6 and Luke 1:39-56.)
After this procession, David has the thought that, while he is living in a house, the ark of God still resides outside, in a tent. He thus calls Nathan the prophet and says that he intends to build a house for the Lord, in other words, to erect a temple for the Almighty, in which he may be worshiped and may gather together his people into unity. This reality of temple, indeed, is of utmost importance, for it is precisely in the temple that the unity, not only of Israel, but of the whole human race, will be restored and safeguarded. It is the space in which, in drawing near to God, all hearts also draw near to one another and become one. The first temple, in fact, was the Garden of Eden, the sanctuary of paradise in which, before sin, Adam and Eve dwelt in perfect harmony with God, with themselves, with one another, and with the whole of creation. And this garden was a microcosm of the entire universe. So too the earthly temple to be built would be a new microcosm, a new garden and a new mini-cosmos, where all the lines come together in the embrace of God.
At first Nathan goes along with David’s intentions; but in the night the Lord reveals that he plans something else. It is not now time for the temple to be built for God, for the house of God to be erected; instead, now is the time for God to built a house for David, his chosen king. And this house shall abide forever. As God says:
Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son.’ (2 Sam 7:5-14a)
Here we have a phenomenal prophecy that points straight, through the imperfect son of David, king Solomon, and through the imperfect men following after him, to the perfect King, Jesus Christ. It is he, in fact, who is the Son of God, and who will build a house in which God is worshiped “in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:23). Indeed, not only shall Christ build this house (the Church which he establishes), but he himself becomes the house of God, he becomes the temple. His own Body is the true temple of God, in which God’s love is poured out into receptive human hearts, and these same hearts surrender to him in return, and thus true unity and intimacy is re-established, between God and man, and between all the children of God, united in his love. God himself, in Christ, has come to his people in order to be their true King and Shepherd, and to build among them God’s true house, his definitive temple, the Church, which is his own Body perpetuated throughout time and space, in which all of humanity is meant to be drawn together into the unity of a single faith and the harmony of a single worship.
Saint John in particular presents the Body of Christ as the true temple. “‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ He was speaking of the temple of his body” (cf. Jn 2:19-21). The Church, born from Christ’s gift of himself in his Paschal Mystery, is in her inner essence nothing but the living perpetuation of his life in the world, inseparably both Bride and Body through the mystery of love which makes “the two into one flesh” (cf. Gen 2:24). Here we see, too, how the Eucharist is indeed the source and summit of the Christian life. The Eucharist makes the Church just as the Church (i.e. Christ in the Church) makes the Eucharist. For the Eucharist is Christ’s living and risen Body, made present to us here and now, even as it pervades all of time and space and lifts it up into the embrace of eternity. This Body given in Passion and Resurrection once, at the apex of history, is given still to us every day, making present anew the fullness of the Paschal Mystery from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday, and, through the Paschal Mystery, makes possible our living participation in the very innermost mystery of the life of God, the intimacy of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.