King David

1 Samuel 16:1-13

17 April 2011

Woodley Baptist Church

Morning Reflective Service - Palm Sunday

Just as the Beatles continue to cast their long shadow over modern pop music more than 40 years after their time, so King David is an Old Testament figure who casts a long shadow over the New Testament a thousand years after his time.

In the Bible as a whole, David's name appears more than any other person. In the translation I usually use, the name of Jesus appears in 925 verses. The name of David in 970.

In the New Testament, we find David's name in the very first verse—Matthew chapter 1 verse 1—and in almost the very last verse—Revelation chapter 22 verse 16.

On that first Palm Sunday, as Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, we find the crowds shouting out Hosanna to the Son of David!ref—why were they shouting that in particular? David's been dead a thousand years! And on the same day, when Jesus goes to the temple, again the children are shouting Hosanna to the Son of David!ref. And we are told that the religious leaders were indignant. They were angry.

What was it that made them angry? Just a case of children shouting in church? No. It was what they were shouting about: proclaiming Jesus to be the Son of David. But why should that upset them so much?

Well, to find out, we need to go back into the world of 1 Samuel, and to see that a key theme at the time was the search for a saviour.

To recap briefly David Barter's sermon from last week, the people of Israel had become fed up over 300 years of being led by the judges. Each time they had hoped that the next one would be the one who would save them, and briefly he or she might, but eventually things would always end up worse then they had been before.

Finally they begged the prophet Samuel to appoint a king for them, saying We want a king over us. Then we shall be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battlesref.

The people were looking for someone to save them, particularly in battle. They had given up on God and were looking for a king to do the job.

This "search for a saviour" is a deep theme in modern culture as well. The "knight in shining armour" of fairy stories. We see it emerge in films like the Matrix—not a film many here may have seen, I guess, but immensely popular. The trilogy of films revolves around the search for The One: the one who would save humanity from the machines. When the hero dies and rises to life again with new powers, we know that he is The One—that's interesting, isn't it?

Or, dare I say it, the Harry Potter books have a huge messianic theme: is Harry the one destined to conquer the evil Voldemort? Is he The One?

So, that's the theme: the search for a saviour, which in 1 Samuel we see as the search for a king.

In Saul, God is rejected as King

As we heard last week, God grants the people their demand, saying to Samuel, Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their kingref. So Samuel anoints Saul as king over them. That's my first heading, In Saul, God is rejected as king.

Humanly speaking Saul is a superb candidate. We read that he is an impressive man: a head taller than the other Israelites; he is incredibly brave and a great warrior.

So, is Saul the One? Is he the One who will save Israel? The answer is given in verse one of our reading from chapter 16, The LORD said to Samuel, How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel?ref. No, Saul is not the One. God says in chapter 15, I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructionsref.

Although impressive by human standards, Saul could never be the One to save Israel because he suffers from the same disease that afflicts all the other Israelites: he has rejected God.

In David, God's man is reigning as King

Now, at last, we come on to David, and in 1 Samuel 16 we see his selection and anointing for kingship. And we find that, in David, God's man is reigning as King, the second heading.

The people have learnt a lesson: a worldly king is not the solution to their problems. So God gives them a king who is different from Saul in two very significant ways. First, he is not an obvious choice from a human point of view, and second, he has a heart that is right with God.

He is clearly not an obvious candidate. I love the almost comical scene we have here where God teaches Samuel not to judge by outward appearances. In verse 6 Samuel sees Jesse's son Eliab, and immediately thinks Surely the Lord's anointed stands here before the Lordref. So, even prophets are not immune from worldly thinking. God corrects him in verse 7 by saying Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.ref

David is such an unlikely candidate in human terms—a young shepherd boy—that his father hadn't even bothered to call him in from tending the sheep. But when he finally turned up God was unequivocal: Rise and anoint him; he is the one.ref He is the one; David is the one.

Through the huge amount of Biblical material covering the life of David, we find that God has given the people the best possible earthly king that they could have. He was not perfect, but ultimately he was a man whose heart was devoted to the Lord. We find testimony to that godliness in the fabulous collection of Psalms that he wrote, and in what other people said about him throughout the rest of the Bible.

Because of his godliness, David's kingship brought great prosperity to Israel. He was able to unite all the tribes of Israel under his reign. He united the the royal and religious capitals of Israel in Jerusalem, which he had captured, and laid the foundation for centuries of worship of God.

Now, There's some obvious application here relating to how we choose the leaders in our churches. We are clearly not to be swayed by the outward appearance of authority, or competence, or strength. Rather, we are to find people whose hearts are right with God. Since you and I are unable to see into peoples' hearts, then the work of appointing leaders must be a work of prayer. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heartref. Like Samuel, we must allow God to guide us as we seek out the one whose heart is right.

There's a converse to this which is more personal. It is that what God most values about me is the state of my heart. What he values most about you is not your achievements, your gifts, your hard work: what he values most of all is simply that you love him from the heart.

So, to recap, for that time and that place, God identified David as the One. In David, God's man is reigning as king. But was he really ultimately the One who could save all of God's people?

In Jesus, God is restored as King

For the answer to this, please turn with me to 2 Samuel chapter 7, verse 11. This is on page 311, the paragraph starting The Lord declares to you. Here we find that, of course, David cannot ultimately be the One. But there will be a time when God is restored as King. Let's read what God says to David.

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 fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, 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.ref

Did you spot that phrase again? Verse 13: He is the oneref.

The point is that even David, the best possible earthly king, could only ever be a temporary solution. The time would come when David's days would be over.

After David died, his son Solomon reigned with some success, but very soon after that, Israel went into steep decline. Clearly, Solomon wasn't The One. Israel and Judah again became divided. Dozens of kings ruled over them: some who did what is right in the eyes of the Lord, and some who did evil in the eyes of the Lord. Eventually the land was captured and the two kingdoms taken into exile: the lowest point in Israel's history.

Clearly, David could not be the One who was to provide permanent and effective peace for the people of God, but in this prophecy before us, God points forward to the time when he himself will establish David's kingdom, with an everlasting King.

What God is doing in king David is giving us a model, or a foretaste, or, theologically speaking, a "type", of the One who was to come.

If you go to the cinema or rent a DVD you will find that there are more and more trailers for films that are "Coming Soon". Scenes from future movies are stuck together to give you a foretaste of what to expect, and to whet your appetite for the real thing when it comes along. They are not the movie in themselves, but they give us a strong impression of the movie that's coming.

The point is that David's reign as king was was like a trailer for the real King yet to come. He was a demonstration of what the people could expect when the true King arrived.

David was not chosen as king because of his human characteristics, but because his heart was right with God. He was just a shepherd from a humble background in Bethlehem who came to rule over all of Israel. He was a most unlikely redeemer. In his weakness he battled with mighty enemies and overcame them in God's name. He was a man of prayer who always pointed his people to God. David wrote the words that begin My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?ref Does any of this sound familiar? David was like a trailer for the true king who was to come.

Let's return to that question I asked at the beginning. Why were the religious leaders so indignant at the children shouting Hosanna to the Son of David about Jesus on that first Palm Sunday?

Well, now we can see. They were proclaiming Jesus as The One. He is the king they had been waiting for for a thousand years. Jesus is the descendant of David who has established his kingdom forever. That's why the religious were so upset! The children could see what they were blind to.

Perhaps to us it's very familiar, but from the point of view of the people around with Jesus in the first century this must have been a staggering realisation. It meant that Jesus wasn't simply a religious leader; not just a guru or prophet. No, this unlikely man was the King! He has real power and real authority over the people of God. He is the One for whom they had been searching for so long! In human terms Jesus may appear, like David, to be a weakling from a humble background, but the reality is that he has absolute sovereign power. He is the true heir to the throne.

But there's more than this. You see, in an incredible twist in the story, God has found a way to reclaim the throne from which the people had rejected him, because, as we know, Jesus is also God, back on the throne of Israel. In 1 Samuel we saw God being rejected as king, and men being installed as kings. But when Jesus takes the throne, we see God being restored as King of his people. That's the heading for this final point: in Jesus, God is restored as king. In Saul, God was rejected as king; in David, God's man was reigning as king; in Jesus, God is restored as king.

Perhaps this all seems a little dry and theoretical to you. Sure, it's an interesting academic point that Jesus is the true heir to David's throne, but so what?

Well, don't let our modern understanding of royalty be your only reference point. A true king has absolute power and authority over the lives of his subjects. A true king has the power to give life and to take life. He is all powerful and almighty. Jesus is the true king, the son of David.

Now, it's one thing to acknowledge that Jesus is the king, but it's quite another to know that Jesus is your king, isn't it?

Take a moment as we reflect to ask yourself now, who is on the throne of your heart? Who is your king?

How did you handle the decisions you made last week? Did you give king Jesus sovereignty; did you bow to his authority? Or did you just do your own thing? Was God on the throne of your heart in Jesus, or were you on that throne yourself?