Great David’s Greater Son, Jesus Christ

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Christ’s fulfillment of the Old Testament comes to us in the second Adam, the blessing and sacrifice of Abraham, and the Deliverer, Prophet, and Lawgiver of Moses. Now we turn our attention to His fulfillment of the kingship, as embodied in David. Looking back to 2 Samuel, we see that the origin of the kingship was not for the sake of seeing God’s kingly rule visibly embodied among the Israelites; no, it was born out of rebellion and rejection of God’s rule. Israel wanted a king because they wanted to be like all the other nations (see 1 Samuel 8:20). Samuel even told them to their faces that their demand for a king was a rejection of God’s rule over them. When Samuel came before the Lord with their request, the Lord said, “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king” (1 Sam. 8:7).

The people kept demanding a king, and Samuel finally anointed Saul, a man from the tribe of Benjamin. If you go back to Genesis 49 and read Jacob’s prophecy over each of his twelve children, you will remember that he said Benjamin was a ravenous wolf who devours his prey (see Genesis 49:27). Contrast that with his prophecy concerning Judah: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from beneath his feet” (Gen. 49:10). The scepter is the major symbol of a king—his authority, power, and rule. The tribe of Judah, not Benjamin, was ultimately destined by God to be the bearer of the kingship. Because the kingship began out of rebellion rather than obedience, however, the first king was specifically chosen from Benjamin. Samuel even described this first king as a ravenous wolf by using the word take five times in his warning: he will take your sons and daughters and make them his servants, he will take the best of your crops, he will take your grain, and so forth. Samuel described how this new king would not serve the people, but would plunder and devour them. Their response, however, was still “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations” (1 Sam. 8:19–20).

David Represents God’s True Kingship

Throughout the Old Testament, characters had to make a number of important choices which the people of God had to make as well: Adam’s choice to obey God’s voice and submit to God’s rule or to take of the fruit, assert his own rule, and try to be like God; Abraham’s choice to follow in the pattern of the world, settle down, and make a name for himself, or to become a pilgrim for the Lord and let God make his name great; Moses’ choice to attempt deliverance in his own strength or to wait on God to equip him. Likewise for Israel, Saul and David became symbols of two very different types. Saul is the anti-king, representing all the ways we assert our own rule over God’s rule; David represents the true kingship of God’s righteous rule and reign. Saul represents human strength; he was literally a head taller than any of the other men, handsome, physically strong, self-confident, and impressive to look at. David was the picture of human frailty; the youngest in his family, small, a child, and a shepherd. Saul trusted in his own strength rather than in God. He directly disobeyed God’s command to destroy the Amalekites completely and kept some of their animals for a sacrifice. When he got impatient waiting for Samuel to come, he made the sacrifice himself in direct disobedience to the separation of kingly and priestly functions. David, by contrast, knew his own weakness and therefore trusted in the Lord. Saul did not have a repentant heart that was sensitive to the Lord’s rebuke. Even after Samuel confronted him, he cared only for maintaining his image before the elders of Israel (1 Sam. 15:30). David, meanwhile, was a man after God’s own heart who, even in his sinful mistakes, was quick to repent and ask forgiveness.

When Samuel anoints David as king, we notice that he is from Bethlehem, of the tribe of Judah. He is chosen from among his seven older brothers, to the astonishment of his father, Jesse, and the prophet Samuel. Rejecting the tall, physically impressive sons, God reminds Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height. . . . The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). David is chosen for that heart which God desired and for that character which would set him apart as Israel’s greatest king. Early on, David’s character is revealed in a way that dramatically contrasts with Saul. Saul was interested in settling down, making his own name great, and building his own kingdom. David, in contrast, when confronted by Goliath, revealed his trust in God’s word and God’s faithfulness. Throughout the encounter, he was more interested in God’s honor and God’s glory than his own name or honor.

Remember that it took Moses forty years in the wilderness of Midian to learn that his greatest provision was God’s name (“I Am” has sent you), God’s authority (staff), and God’s word (God gave him the words to speak). David, it seems, understood those basic lessons even as a young person. He declared to Goliath, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (1 Sam. 17:45). David exemplifies one who trusts in God’s name, God’s authority, and God’s word. After David consolidated his rule over Israel, and the ark of the covenant was brought to Jerusalem, the Lord spoke to David, saying, “The Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. . . . Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:11b–12, 16). From this promise developed the messianic expectation that the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah, and specifically from the line of David and the town of Bethlehem. This becomes part of Israel’s hope, as demonstrated in texts such as Psalm 132:11, Micah 5:2, and Isaiah 9:6–7. Even in the midst of judgment and exile, when the lofty cedars of Lebanon were felled and the forests cut low, Isaiah reminded the people that a shoot would come up from the stump of Jesse. When Gabriel appears to Mary in Luke 1:32–33, he says of Jesus: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

This is why one of the most important titles of Jesus in the New Testament is “Son of David.” Jesus Christ is great David’s greater Son. In Psalm 110, David even recognized that his son would be greater than he was by calling his son “Lord.” David ruled an earthly throne; Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father. David won many earthly battles; Jesus won the cosmic battle against the powers of Satan. David was but a reflection of God’s kingly rule; Jesus is the embodiment of the kingdom. David was a man after God’s own heart; Jesus is the very heart of God Himself. Jesus is the perfect embodiment of the righteous rule and reign of God. Today, we can praise Him and proclaim Him King. We can declare that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10–11)! We can prophetically see that one day, the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever (Rev. 11:15). One of the great joys we have as Christians is that we can look in the back of the book and know who wins! We know the final outcome! Jesus is Lord. The Lion of the tribe of Judah rules and reigns over the universe. To Him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever. Hallelujah!

David, royal king who led God’s people to great vict’ries won;
Jesus, sovereign King of all kings—Hail, great David’s greater Son!

Did you find this entry helpful? Then you’ll enjoy Timothy Tennent’s book, The Fulfillment: Jesus and the Old Testament, where he explores how Jesus Christ fulfills many Old Testament characters, stories, themes, and practices. Get your copy from our store here.

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Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at timothytennent.com and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.

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