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Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Tale of Three Kings

In 1 Samuel, we meet God preparing a boy to become a man of God and a God-anointed king. The years of travel and training for David lasted a long time, about twenty-five years. When David began his reign of the Israelites, he was almost middle-aged. What made God choose someone of lowly birth to lead His people? What is it that David possessed that made him fit to be king? How did David’s reign presage the coming of Christ?  

From the beginning of David’s life, he realized he would be in the shadow of his brothers. His brothers probably teased and taunted him every day. David had seven older brothers. His father, Jesse, was the grandson of Boaz, who married Ruth and made her acceptable in the community of the Israelites (Ruth 4). Ruth believed in the one true God enough to follow Naomi, her mother-in-law, from Moab back to Israel because of the drought in Moab.

Jesse was a leader of his time, according to the Midrash, an ancient commentary on the Jewish Torah. The people considered him more blessed than others because he had eight sons. Why, then, did they treat David like an outcast? The Bible gives no specifics why, but Jewish writers say that his mother, Nitzevet, conceived David through trickery with Jesse. David’s seven brothers thought she had been unfaithful. They wanted to kill her and the unborn child. Yet Jesse told them not to harm her and the baby. This provides a possible explanation why David's brothers and father belittled David and gave him the lowliest job of being a shepherd. There are, therefore, two reasons for the brothers to think so little of David – he was the youngest and possibly conceived through trickery. As the eighth son, though David was the lowest of the brothers, he was in the best position to learn. He was humble. David, being meek, sought after God in the quiet times when he was with the sheep. He had time and quiet to learn the voice of God. David penned the words, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). He was open to hearing the voice of God; he was a young boy after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).

God told Samuel to anoint another king for the nation of Israel. Saul disobeyed God when He told him to kill every Amalekite and their animals. Saul kept king Agag and the best of the animals alive against God’s command (1 Samuel 15). He did not repent for disobeying God then and just sporadically during the next twenty-five years in which God trained David to be the king of the Israelites. God was sorry He listened to the Israelites when they wanted to choose a tall man who was a natural leader to be their king (1 Samuel 9:2, 10:23-24). The problem was this natural leader would not subjugate his will for God’s will. God cut Saul’s line from the generation of future kings because of his disobedience.

Because God removed Saul’s family from being kings of Israel, He sent Samuel to Jesse’s family. Samuel, one by one, went by each of the first seven of Jesse’s sons. God did not tell him to anoint any of them. Samuel inquired if there was another son since he understood God said he would anoint one of Jesse’s sons. With trepidation, Jesse mentioned the youngest son, David. Samuel sent for Jesse’s last son, the one whom God desired to be king of His people. He anointed David as the future king of Israel. (Notice God did not tell him his reign would begin many years later and not then.)

Why, of these large strapping young men of Jesse, did God want David to lead Israel? Maybe the question should be - what could God do with young David that would make him fit to be king of His people, Israel? Think about birth rank in families. Often fathers train the first sons to be strong men who lead families and people. Since Jesse was a leader in the community, his community would expect the son’s of Jesse to be future leaders. Jesse and the rabbi trained them in tradition, history, wisdom from their patriarchs, and in the knowledge of the Lord. They were a family to whom Israel would turn to find their future leaders. Yet, there always is a last son when a first son exists. The role of the last son often turns out to be the baby, the momma’s boy, or the scapegoat. He is the one who is least considered to be a leader and who, by his place in the family, is least expected to make decisions. Family members look upon the last son as needing specific directions about what to do. Did David live up to that role? It appears his seven older brothers and Jesse wanted to put him in that role. They wanted to get him out of the home to avoid him dishonoring the family name. (When David took bread to his brothers as they trembled at Goliath’s feet, they ridiculed him for thinking he was good enough to leave the sheep fields and face battle.) 

We find out who young David was in our reading of 1 Samuel. David was an obedient boy. He learned obedience at his mother’s knee and through the teaching harshness of his father and brothers. Doing right was easier than wrong. By doing right, David could stay out of the limelight. This obedience put him in the right place for hearing from God. David grew accustomed to subjugating his wants to those of his parents and elder brothers. As a son in an Israelite family, he would have learned the ways God spoke to and took care of His people. In the fields watching the sheep was a good place to learn to be still and quiet. It was a perfect place to hear the voice of God. For David, it became the perfect place to speak to God, too. The fields, too, became his battleground as he fought lion, bear, and wolf in defense of his sheep. Does God use people whose ears are attuned to Him? Does God use people who will fight for the sheep? As others have noted, God does not necessarily choose the equipped, but He equips those He chooses. 

God chose David. David’s was more than just in the sheep fields and with his family. He would have royal training, too. David became the psalmist for tormented king Saul. It was the words and music God put into David’s heart that soothed Saul. Later David’s presence enraged Saul. His presence always reminded Saul God removed His blessing from him and placed it on David. David’s close friendship with Jonathan, Saul’s son, made Saul jealous. Eventually Saul became jealous for the position of king Jonathan and his descendants could have had as his heirs. Saul became so tormented he even tried to kill his own son with a spear at a public banquet (1 Samuel 20:33). From that point in time through another twenty to twenty-three years, Saul spent most of his waking hours plotting to capture and kill David. He wanted to remove God’s hand from David and place it back on himself. Saul became so obsessed with this that he compromised the security of the Promised Land. 

During David’s time of running from Saul, he hid and grew. David grew in leadership, military acuity, diplomacy, judgment, and faith in Yahweh. With each attempt on his life by Saul, he grew to be the man God would have be the king of His people. Saul grew more self-absorbed as shown by his actions. As David grew in the knowledge of the Lord, Saul decreased in power and control. This does not mean each of David’s teaching moments were brilliant shining examples of growth for later generations to follow. David was human, too. He slid into the depths because of making human choices instead of following God’s choices, such as asking Achish, the king of the Philistines, to give him protection from Saul (1 Samuel 26-27). Yet David learned he must ask and listen to God’s decisions about each step upon the way (1 Samuel 30). 

What was the difference between Saul and David? They both started their reigns listening to God. Still they both disobeyed or followed their own desires. Yet David learned and repented while Saul never repented for allowing king Agag to remain alive or for most of his other sins. As a human, David possessed none of the “things” that made him more of a king God wanted on his throne. He was not the tallest of Israelites as the Israelites wanted when they chose Saul. David was not the one who commanded the following of many people when God chose him. He was, though, a young man from God’s chosen people who listened to God’s voice. David’s job as shepherd and musician for the king was not so exalted that he thought himself bigger than Yahweh God. His financial security was not so large he felt he could depend upon himself. David’s birth did not commend to him supernatural power and authority, as would his descendent, Jesus. He did not dress better than anyone dresses, smell better than anyone smells, or command vast numbers of people. David was the last son of a son of Israel who received no promise of an inheritance. He stank like the animals he tended. David’s family mocked and forgot him. David possessed nothing except his belief in God Almighty.

Why was David’s reign so important then? Why do we look to it as the foretelling of the future reign of Christ? To answer these questions, let us look at it backwards in time. Jesus was the son of the human woman, Mary, and the heavenly Father, Yahweh. For humanity, Jesus needed to be seen as a human, one of them, having gone through things each person normally goes through and faced what they would face. Yet humanity needed a Messiah who would come in power and might, like a warrior king, to defeat the forces of Satan and reign in power and majesty. For God the Father, the sin of humanity separates each person from Him because His holiness cannot be in the presence of sin. Humanity needed an adequate means to remove the stain of sin so they could have a renewed and clean/pure relationship with God. Jesus is the answer to both these needs -  the needs of the Father and the needs of humanity. Jesus was the little boy born into a poor carpenter’s home. He lived life as an Israelite boy growing up under the tutelage of his father, Joseph, and the rabbis at the synagogue. Jesus, too, was the perfect sacrifice the Father required to purify humanity of their sins. He lived His life without sin, even in the face of blatant temptation by Satan during his forty days in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11).

David, in comparison to Jesus – boy and man, was a young boy, the lowest of his brothers. His family cast him out (as a shepherd), almost to the point of not acknowledging him as family. David learned to recognize God's voice as a youth. Jesus knew the Father’s voice as a youth, too. At age twelve, Jesus stayed in the temple and taught the other temple-goers. He came to earth to lead the people to know and follow the Father. God chose David to lead His people to perceive, understand, and follow Him, Yahweh, I AM. Both David and Jesus began their work for the Father at a tender age. The people despised them. David and Jesus chose not to do his own will but that of the Father. 

How did David’s reign presage Jesus’ reign? Old Testament prophets foretold Jesus would come and be a king from the line of David. Jesus came to be the sacrifice for His people. (David sacrificed his will most of his life to God’s.) How is Jesus’ reign more important? David was the king of the chosen people. Jesus came to be the King of God’s children, Israelite and Gentile. David’s sacrifice of himself and his will to God was for the people of that time. Jesus’ sacrifice of His life was for the people of all time. David's sacrifice could not erase sin. Jesus' sacrifice erases the penalty and guilt of sin for those who repent and believe in Him.

Knowing this, the reign of David as “a man after God’s own heart” and the reign of Christ as God’s Salvation, both of which required sacrifice, it might be scary to consider allowing yourself to subjugate yourself to the Father (1 Samuel 13:14). Consider this: if you do not allow God to lead you on a daily, personal basis to live the best life, you are choosing the opposite that of allowing Satan to win by demanding your own way. Your way is not the best way because your view of life is limited, but God’s is endless. He knows best how to go through the path of your life. If you refuse to live God’s way, you are choosing to live Satan’s way. There are just two ways. God loves you and wants the best for you. Satan, as the master of chaos, does not know love and seeks his own best. He sees life as a game. The game, to him, is to keep the Father from getting as many people as He can from entering heaven’s gates. Satan cannot go to heaven and he does not want you to go to heaven either. He is jealous. He is tricky. He is confusing.
Which path would you rather choose –
wait and earn God’s voice and listen to and follow Him as the young boy David did
stand on your own two feet, be the master of your own life, and be wrong and unable to make it right because of your human limitations, like Saul?

Forever after, God and His followers recognized David as a “man after God’s own heart.”
You can choose. 

Do you want to be a person after God’s own heart?