David, a Forerunner of Christ

1 Samuel 16:1-13

24 June 2001

Greyfriars Church


Just as the Beatles continue to cast their long shadow over modern pop music more than 30 years after their time, so King David is a figure who casts his shadow over the New Testament of the Bible a thousand years after his time.

We find David's name in the very first verse of the New Testament—Matthew chapter 1 verse 1—and in the sixth from last verse of the New Testament—Revelation chapter 22 verse 16. In all his name appears no fewer than fifty-eight times throughout the New Testament.

We know that Jesus was born in the City of David, Bethlehem, where we found David being anointed by Samuel in the reading. We're familiar with the cry of the blind man, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on meref, and the shouts of the crowd at the triumphal entry, Hosanna to the Son of David!ref.

The title of this sermon is "David, a forerunner of Christ" . So, what is the connection between Jesus, and David, who lived a thousand years earlier? Why are Matthew and Luke so keen to establish at the beginning of their gospel accounts that Jesus is a descendent of David? What does it mean for Jesus to be the "Son of David"?

Well, there are many ways in which David could be seen as a forerunner of Christ, and I'd love to tell you about all of them. Unfortunately, if I were to attempt that, you and I would need the stamina of the fellow I heard about yesterday who is attempting to break the world record for preaching by expounding the Bible for 36 hours continuously. May God strengthen him and his hearers!

To spare you that, I want to concentrate on the principle way in which David was a forerunner of Christ. We're going to look at the theme of kingship. The kingdom of Israel was founded on David, and the kingdom of God is founded on Jesus. A suitable subtitle for this sermon might be "The search for a king" .

To explore what it all means we need to go back to the beginning, in 1 Samuel. I want to look with you at three places in the books of 1 and 2 Samuel, so gird your loins and turn first to 1 Samuel chapter 8 which is on page 278 of the church Bibles.

God is rejected as king

In this incident we see the Israelites' first demand for a king; but we also see how this demand is a rejection of God. That's my first heading: God is rejected as king.

At this point in their history Israel is at a real low. For decades they had been ruled by a sequence of largely self-appointed people known as "judges". But this system was a failure. The people had drifted from God. We're told that in those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions. They had allowed the ultimate religious disaster to fall upon them by letting the Ark of the Lord's covenant be captured by the Philistines, and their society had descended more or less into anarchy.

At the end of the book of Judges we're given the people's diagnosis of their problem. It says In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.ref

So we find the people of Israel in 1 Samuel chapter 8, verse 4 petitioning God through the prophet and Judge Samuel, All the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have."ref

"If only we had a king like the other nations" , they were saying, "then we could be as successful as they are."

(It's ironic, isn't it, that in our day some people think that society would be better served by getting rid of our monarch, but times change, I suppose.)

Like a second-rate football team—no names mentioned—,rather than addressing the real source of their problems the Israelites just go for the easy option and sack their manager.

Instead of doing the right thing and returning to God, the Israelites' human solution to their problems was to demand a human king.

Have a look at what God says to Samuel in response to their request in verse 7:

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. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.ref

God states quite clearly here, and in other places, that by demanding a human king the people are rejecting him. There's only room for one king over God's people, and the Israelites didn't want God. God is rejected as king

Nonetheless, God grants their request, because that is the kind of God that we have have, isn't it? God is well within his rights at this point to "smite the Israelites most grieviously". But no, if the people want to go their own way without him he will respect that decision.

He will let you go if you want to. If you want to be king of your life, he won't stop you: it's your choice. God never forces himself on us. But, just as he does here, he will warn that there will be consequences of rejecting him. And, as we will see later, he will never stop trying to win you back.

Men are installed as kings

So we've seen how the Israelites have rejected God as their king. Now we will see what happens when men are installed as kings, and that's my second heading, men are installed as kings.

Please turn now to 1 Samuel, chapter 16, which is the passage that we had read to us earlier. It's on page 287 of the church Bibles.

There's a phrase in this passage that will resonate for anyone who has seen the film The Matrix. I've seen the film twice; another two or three times and I might understand the plot! Anyway, the phrase is at the end of verse 12: he is the oneref. Does that ring some bells?

The film is about the search for the One who can liberate mankind from being stuck in a virtual reality world generated by the ruling machines, and who could rescue them from the vast plants where their living bodies were used to generate electricity for the machines.

So, their predicament is a little different from that of the Israelites, but throughout the film comes the recurring question: is he the One? Is he the One? Not until the last few moments of the film do we find out who is the One. I won't give it away.

In the same way, the Israelites have now kicked off the search for the One who would save them. The search for the king who would save them. So, let's look at the candidates.


The first king that God gives the people is exactly the kind of king they would have wanted.

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

So, is Saul the One? Is he the One who will save Israel? The answer is given in verse one of chapter 16. No, Saul is not the One. God has rejected him as king over Israel. In chapter 15 we find out why God has rejected him: 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. He 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.

Perhaps this is a warning to us to limit what we expect from our political leaders. Many speculations have been made as to the reason for the low voter turnout in the recent election. Let me add my two cents to the pile. I think people are finding that there is something missing from politics. Our leaders are strangely ineffective; they appear unable to sort out the deep problems of society. Socio-economic tinkering will never meet our deepest needs, and I think that people are beginning to realise this.

Our lesson from King Saul is that godless leadership will never solve our biggest problem: that we have rejected God as our king. That's a challenge for the church, isn't it?


Now, at last, we come on to David, and in this passage we see his selection and anointing for kingship.

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 turned up God was unequivocal: Rise and anoint him; he is the one.ref

In David, God has given the people the best possible earthly king that they could have. David was a man whose heart was fully devoted to the Lord. We find testimony to that not only in the fabulous collection of Psalms that he wrote, but also 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 the next thousand years 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.

In today's Sunday Times is rather a sad article about former dot-com billionaires. This is what psychologists have to say,

The instant poor judge themselves solely on their wealth. They often suffer from low self-esteem, insecurity, guilt, paranoia and insomnia... It doesn't matter how much money there is in the bank, there is never enough. There is a huge fear of failure. If they suddenly lose their money, they suffer deep depression. Many identify themselves through their possessions, so their whole identity collapses.

Of course, not many of us are former billionaires: the "instant poor". What crushes us may just be that he is better looking than me; or she more self confident; or they have a bigger house; or he got a better payrise. What does it matter if my heart is right with God? Let's learn to value what God values.

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

God is restored as king

For the answer to this, please turn with me to the final passage I want to look at in 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. So, my heading for this section is God is restored as king. Let's read what it says.

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. In verse 12 here God acknowledges that one day David's days will be over and in his speech in Acts chapter 2, Peter is explicit, Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this dayref.

After David died his son Solomon reigned with some success, but very soon after that Israel went into steep decline. 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. In David God gives 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 video you will find that there are more and more trailers for films that are to be released soon. Scenes from the movie are stuck together to give you a foretaste of what to expect and whet your appetite for the real thing when it comes along.

I always like to get to the cinema early to make sure I don't miss them, and it seems that I'm not the only one who enjoys watching the trailers. When the trailer for the forthcoming Tomb Raider movie was put up on an internet site it had 600 thousand hits in one day, inevitably causing the web-server to crash.

Anyway, 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 came from a humble background in Bethlehem 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.

Of course, we all know now exactly who is the One. We know that Jesus is the descendent of David who has established his kingdom forever. This prophesy, made a thousand years before Christ is the reason why it matters so much that Jesus is in the line of David, he is the Son of David.

Perhaps to us it's a familiar thought, 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 took the throne, we see that God is restored as King of his people.

So in Jesus we can find the solution to mankind's problems. Because Jesus, Son of David, is King, he can do what the earthly kings failed to do. He can save his people.

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?

Partly that might come from our current concept of an entirely impotent monarchy. Let me assure you that true kingship does not resemble the antics of the Windsor family in any way. No, a true king has absolute power and authority over our lives. The power to give life and to take life. He is all powerful and almighty. Jesus is the true king.

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 now to ask yourself now, who is on the throne of my heart? Who is my king?

Perhaps a good indicator of the answer to this question might be to review the decisions you made last week. Every day we make decisions. Who has the final say in your case? Was God on the throne of your heart in Jesus, or were you on that throne yourself.

As the Israelites found: there's only room for one king. If you are running your life your own way, then be one hundred percent certain of this: you have rejected God.

The danger of doing that is that if, like Saul, you reject God, He will in the end reject you.

Alternatively, if, like David, you put God on the throne of your heart, in the person of Jesus, the true King, then God will build you into that everlasting kingdom.

That's the choice I want to leave you with: who will be on the throne of your heart this week?