Rev. VanOverloop is pastor of Byron Center Protestant Reformed Church in Byron Center, Michigan.
“And if thou wilt walk before me as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments . . .”
Parents are admonished to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). Teach them and train them in such a way that they hear and heed the Lord Jesus Christ. At the same time, parents (and especially fathers) are admonished to accompany the instruction they give to their children with a walk (a manner of life) that is consistent with their instruction. They are to exemplify their instruction. They are to be examples to their children. God admonished Solomon to heed the example of David!
Solomon had just completed the construction and dedication of the temple. The dedication had concluded with a lengthy dedicatory prayer by Solomon (I Kings 8:22-61). This was followed by a planned week-long feast, which was extended another week because the number of the sacrifices was so large (II Chron. 7:7). The feast ended with the people returning to their homes “joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the LORD had done for David his servant, and for Israel his people” (I Kings 8:66).
Then God appears to Solomon (I Kings 9:2) and responds to the requests that Solomon made in his dedicatory prayer. First, God promises to “put my name” in the temple (v. 3), as Solomon had asked (I Kings 8:27-30). To Solomon’s request that God set His eyes over this house (I Kings 8:29), God gave more than Solomon had asked, saying that not only His eyes but also Hisheart would be there (I Kings 9:3).
Our text is God’s answer to Solomon’s request in I Kings 8:25for the fulfillment of God’s promise that there always be a successor of David on the throne. This promise God had first given to David when He told David that he was not allowed to build the temple. After denying David this privilege, God promised to “set up thy seed after thee,” and “thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever” (II Sam. 7:12, 16). As David’s life was about to end, he expressed the fervent hope that “the LORD may continue his word which he spake concerning me” (I Kings 2:4). Now Solomon asks God to keep that promise.
God states His answer to Solomon in a form that appears to make God’s promise dependent or conditioned on Solomon’s obedience. “If thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, . . . then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever” (vss. 4, 5). Three things must be clear if we are to understand that our text does not make this promise of God conditional.
First, God’s promises are always unconditional! God is faithful and His promises are sure (II Sam. 23:5; Is. 55:3; Rom. 4:16; II Tim. 2:19)—also this promise to establish the throne of David over Israel forever. God’s promises do not depend on man to be fulfilled. God’s promises are dependent only on His eternal counsel and His sovereign control. Therefore, we may be assured that they will always be fulfilled! The point to be remembered is that God’s promises are often not fulfilled in the way we expect. But they are always fulfilled. In this specific case, God’s promise to David that his son would sit upon his throne forever is fulfilled in theSon of David, the Lord Jesus Christ, who sits enthroned on high in might to reign, and His kingdom is not an earthly kingdom, but a spiritual and heavenly one.
Second, notice carefully the language God used when He made the promise to David in II Samuel 7. God stated that if David’s son would “commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men” (v. 14b). But God continues, “But my mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, . . . and thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever” (vss. 15, 16). The same kind of language is used in Psalm 89:33, 34. God promised to chasten David’s son upon disobedience, but He would still keep His promise—only in a different way than expected, namely, in Jesus Christ, the Son of David. This is the way we are to understand what God tells Solomon now in I Kings 9:4-9.
Third, let us realize that God expresses Himself as He does in our text for two reasons. One, God is reinforcing His commands, stating in a powerful way the obligations that flow from God’s promises. God makes it clear to Solomon that it is His commands that determine human responsibility, not His determinative counsel, nor His sovereign, providential control, nor His wonderful promises. And, two, God expresses Himself this way to show that the realization of His promises can be experienced only in the way of humble obedience. For example, God has forgiven all the sins of His children, but they experience this forgiveness only in the way of humble obedience. God gives only and always grace to His people, but His people experience this grace only in the way of humble obedience.
So Solomon is to know that his God-given calling is to walk before God as David his father walked.
David walked before God. He lived his life conscious that God’s eyes were on him. This does not mean that David did not sin. Scripture records some of David’s lamentable falls into sin. In addition, David, like every one of the elect, needed forgiveness always for his sins and his sinfulness. To walk before God does not require sinlessness. Rather it requires godly sorrow and trust in promised forgiveness, a striving against the weakness of our faith and the evil lusts of our flesh, an earnest desire to fight against unbelief and to live according to all of God’s commandments. This is what it is to walk before God.
Our text speaks of a specific way in which David walked before God: “in integrity of heart, and in uprightness.” “Integrity of heart” is to be most sincere, without a mask, in the sense of being open and not deceitful. It is a readiness to admit sins of omission and commission, sins of weakness, secret faults and presumptuous sins (as David did in Psalm 19:12, 13). And it is a striving to obey God in every detail of life. “Uprightness” is to be morally straight, a striving always to do what is just, right, and true. These two concepts are often placed together (Job 1:1; Ps. 25:21, 37:37).
David did not use traitorous and unrighteous means to gain the crown of Israel from Saul, nor did he use such methods to keep the throne from Absalom. He strove to be guided consciously by the principles of honor to God in all his actions. While guilty of many sins and failings in his life, David never fell into idolatry or other kinds of apostasy. He was devoted to the worship of his God. His integrity and uprightness were evidenced in his desire to do all that God had commanded, keeping God’s “statutes and judgments.” One “keeps” God’s commands by observing, watching, giving heed to them. David walked before God by striving to be aware that God had prescribed what he must do (a statute), and that God will execute judgment on everything he does, good and evil (judgment). This is the way that David walked.
God calls Solomon to walk “as David thy father walked.” David set a good example for Solomon. Parents always set an example for their children. Older members of the church always are examples to the younger members. Sometimes the example is not to be followed (Ezek. 20:18; Jer. 9:14; Amos 2:4). Jehoshaphat was commended for walking in the ways of David (II Chron. 17:3), and Uzziah learned well from Amaziah (II Chron. 26:4). Paul set himself up as an example to the elders of Ephesus (Acts 20:35). At least three times he told the Corinthian saints to follow him (I Cor. 4:16, 7:7, 11:1), and twice he told the Philippians to do so (Phil. 3:17, 4:9). He admonished his spiritual sons, Timothy and Titus, that they were to be examples (I Tim. 4:12; Tit. 2:7). Our Lord Jesus told His disciples to “learn of me” (Matt. 11:29 and John 13:15). Paul often set Jesus up as an example (II Cor. 10:1; Eph. 5:2; Phil. 2:5;Col. 3:13; Heb. 12:2, 3).
Parents are to teach their children with instruction, but they must always remember that often the most important instruction is the example they give in their life. When the sins of parents are visited upon their children, then it is because the children follow the example of their parents. On the other hand, Timothy had the godly example of unfeigned (sincere and undisguised) faith in his grandmother and mother.
We can teach and instruct our children with many words concerning the truth and commands of Scripture. But the loudness of our example can drown out our many words if our example contradicts what we say. Remember that a good example is not sinlessness (an impossibility), but integrity of heart and uprightness of walk (a humble confession and a constant striving to obey all of God’s commands). Such a walk before God supports and affirms what Scripture says.
Let us not adopt the foolish saying: Do what I say and not what I do. Rather let our children know that we are honest about ourselves (integrity) and our constant need for the grace of God in Christ Jesus!