PSALM 89:20-37

20 I have found my servant David;
    with my holy oil I have anointed him;
21 my hand shall always remain with him;
    my arm also shall strengthen him.
22 The enemy shall not outwit him,
    the wicked shall not humble him.
23 I will crush his foes before him
    and strike down those who hate him.
24 My faithfulness and steadfast love shall be with him;
    and in my name his horn shall be exalted.
25 I will set his hand on the sea
    and his right hand on the rivers.
26 He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father,
    my God, and the Rock of my salvation!’
27 I will make him the firstborn,
    the highest of the kings of the earth.
28 Forever I will keep my steadfast love for him,
    and my covenant with him will stand firm.
29 I will establish his line forever,
    and his throne as long as the heavens endure.
30 If his children forsake my law
    and do not walk according to my ordinances,
31 if they violate my statutes
    and do not keep my commandments,
32 then I will punish their transgression with the rod
    and their iniquity with scourges;
33 but I will not remove from him my steadfast love,
    or be false to my faithfulness.
34 I will not violate my covenant,
    or alter the word that went forth from my lips.
35 Once and for all I have sworn by my holiness;
    I will not lie to David.
36 His line shall continue forever,
    and his throne endure before me like the sun.
37 It shall be established forever like the moon,
    an enduring witness in the skies.”

David had known the providence of God in a personal way during the time he was a shepherd in the hills outside Bethlehem. And after he was anointed by the prophet Samuel and eventually became king of Israel, his perception of God’s hand on his life rarely dimmed. No doubt, David suffered bouts and seasons when the divine seemed far away or event antagonistic – witness the many psalms of anguish in the Bible – but in the long view he carried within himself an assurance of God’s ever-present and faithful love.

It may well be that David’s personal experience and faith was the germinal source of the Bible’s belief in an unconditional covenant existing between God and the royal throne. The earlier Mosaic covenant was more conditional, promising prosperity and divine favor to the people so long as they continued in obedience to the commands of God. Notice how the language of the Davidic covenant, on the other hand, is expressive of a unilateral promise on God’s part. “I will not remove from him my steadfast love” and “I will not violate my covenant” are not dependent on David’s moral performance or reputation. God will be faithful and will forgive – no matter what.

Jesus would later expand this notion of God’s unconditional love to include all people, a teaching that got him in trouble because it breaks down our walls of division.

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