David was the fair-haired shepherd boy who defeated a giant named Goliath. He was the wise Jewish ruler who brought the tribes of
together as a united nation. He was a powerful warrior, cunning diplomat, and talented musician. He was known as a "man after God's own heart" (1 Samuel 13:13 - 15) and yet he was also someone who sinned miserably. How can an adulterer and a murderer be called a man after God's own heart? It would seem to be because when he failed, he repented and then turned back to God (see Psalm 51). Israel
Those are some of the incidents from and the aspects of the life that King David lived. They make him one of the most interesting and significant characters whose stories are told within the pages of scripture. This is all broadly in line with what God is recorded as having promised David in today’s reading (2 Samuel 17. 1 – 14a). In verses 8 – 11 we read:
“I took you from looking after sheep in the fields and made you the ruler of my people
. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have defeated all your enemies as you advanced. I will make you as famous as the greatest leaders in the world. I have chosen a place for my people Israel and have settled them there, where they will live without being oppressed any more. Ever since they entered this land, they have been attacked by violent people, but this will not happen again. I promise to keep you safe from all your enemies and to give you descendants.” Israel
Yet there is another aspect to the life of King David – the second track running through his life – that eventually comes to mean that more is written in the Bible about him than many other famous Bible characters, including Abraham and Moses. Believe it or not, there is also more in the Bible about King David than there is about Jesus!
The second track to David’s life is that he serves as a paradigm for the coming Messiah. What does that mean? A paradigm is a pattern, frame, template or model within which something broadly similar but not exactly the same can be recognized. David’s life became the template or model for what the future Davidic King – the Messiah – would look like. That future King – the Messiah – wouldn’t David come back to life or an exact copy of David in every respect but key aspects of David’s life and character became reference points enabling people who would live after him to recognize the Messiah when they saw him.
So we read, at the end of today’s reading, that God said to David:
“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.”
That promise could apply to David’s immediate descendents – King Solomon, who built the temple in Jerusalem, for example – but it can also be understood as speaking about a future descendent who will also be God’s Son and who will establish an eternal Kingdom. It is a twin track promise from a twin track life. David’s life was both the life that he lived in his own day and time plus the ongoing significance of his life as a pattern, template or paradigm for the future Messiah.
Matthew tells us, in his Gospel, that Jesus was a descendant of David and gives a genealogy to demonstrate this. In Acts 13 we read of Paul preaching that God had testified concerning David: “‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Saviour Jesus, as he promised.” (v. 22 – 23)
Incidents from the life of David that were regarded by the Church Fathers as foreshadowing the life of Christ include; Bethlehem being the birthplace of both; the shepherd life of David pointing towards Jesus, the Good Shepherd; the five stones chosen to slay Goliath as typical of the five wounds of Christ. The betrayal by David’s trusted counsellor, Achitophel, and his crossing the Cedron (or Kidron) brook are reminders of events from Christ's Passion.
Many of the Psalms David is credited with writing are also typical of the future Messiah. References found in the Psalms that are understood in the New Testament to indicate that Jesus is the Messiah include the following: the Messiah will be God's Son (Psalms 2:7); He will be rejected by many but accepted by God (Psalm 118:22); his close friend will betray him (Psalm 41:9); he will experience agony on the cross (Psalm 22:1-21); he will rise from the dead (Psalm 16:8-10); he will ascend into heaven (Psalm 68:18); and will become the eternal priest-king (Psalm 110:4).
This is all very interesting but how is it significant for us? Firstly, this is how Jesus and the Early Church often explained his significance. After all, Jesus was an obscure preacher in an obscure part of the Roman Empire who never did any of the things we normally associate with greatness and who died a criminal’s death. Why should anyone pay attention to what he did and said? On the road to Emmaus (Luke 24. 25 - 27) we read of Jesus explaining to his two disciples what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. In Acts 8. 32 – 35, we read of Philip starting with a passage of scripture from Isaiah and going on to tell the Ethiopian official the Good News about Jesus using the scriptures. That was the usual practice of the Early Church and we can benefit ourselves from understanding Jesus’ significance in the same way.
Secondly, we are also called to live double or twin track lives in a way that is similar to that of David. Our lives, as Christians, are to be patterned or modelled on Jesus – we follow in his footsteps by doing the kinds of things which he did and said to the extent that we can in our contemporary lives. When we act in ways that are similar to Jesus – the pattern or template for our lives as Christians – we reveal for a moment something of the reality of the kingdom of God in contemporary life. Our lives as a whole, and particular actions or initiatives with which we are involved, can therefore be signs of or pointers to the reality and nature of the kingdom of God. Like the life of David, our lives can have significance both for who we are – people loved, accepted and used by God – and for what we can reveal of kingdom of God – our words and actions showing something of the pattern and nature of God’s kingdom.
David’s life speaks to us of Jesus. In what ways do our lives our lives do the same? How does the way we live our daily life speak to others of the Messiah that we love and serve and follow? Let us pattern our lives on what we know of Christ and pray for Christ to be seen in us, even when we are not consciously aware that we imitating him.
Keith Green - Psalm 51.