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David Becomes King 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9,10 Mark 6:1-13

Who will be the next leader, how he or she will be replaced, and who will come to power are questions that arise in the life of governments and people from time to time. Plenty of people comment about whether our present Prime Minster has had his day. Abroad we have seen the power struggle in Iran as a result of their recent general election. The handing on of power in peaceful and open ways is a blessing which we have almost come to take for granted in Britain. But it can be a troubled time for others.

The Story so far
After the death of Saul there was a period of instability amongst the people he had been ruling. David had been anointed by the prophet Samuel as Saul’s successor even though he was not Saul’s heir. Although Saul had been an attractive choice to start with, he had turned out not to be such a good king after all. So God had sent Samuel to a more suitable candidate and in the closing years of Saul’s reign David had proved himself worthy of his future calling.

David was accepted and anointed king of the tribes of Judah, the more southern tribes who had been ruled by Saul. But Saul’s chief of staff, General Abner, survived the battle with the Philistines which had seen Saul and Jonathan killed. Abner made another of Saul’s sons who had survived into a king. His name was Ishbaal and he became king of the northern tribes of Israel. David’s seat of government was Hebron whilst Ishbaal was based at Mahanaim. During the next few years there were shifting loyalties, skirmishes, assassinations and an uneasy truce between the rival kingdoms. The House of David grew stronger and David tried to ensure that there was the chance for greater unity between the peoples of both kingdoms. He tried to make it clear that he did not want to be seen as usurping Saul’s kingdom. He waited until the northern tribes were ready to accept his kingship of their own accord, and only after Ishbaal had died.
The Kingdom back together
The northern tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and made him their king. David made a covenant with them, so that it would be a two-sided relationship. They acknowledged their tribal ties with him and his role in leading and protecting them whilst Saul was still their king. He had been a brave warrior all along, staying loyal to Saul even when Saul believed David was a threat to him. David then moved his base from Hebron to Jerusalem. Jerusalem at the time was a stronghold, but it was more central for both ends of the re-united kingdom and had more potential to be well-fortified. For the rest of his long reign of 33 years he was, as the people put it to him, “Shepherd of his people Israel”.

The Ideal King
In later years and in Jesus’ day, and even now, David has been seen as the model king and that period of his reign as the golden age of the Kingdom of Israel. There was strength in unity, the territory expanded, and there was blessing in David’s attitude towards his kingship: saw himself and was seen by his subjects as the shepherd of his people. As their shepherd he was their defender, protector and provider. He wasn’t perfect, as the story of his affair with Bathsheba shows, but he was the best king they had. After David came Solomon and then the two halves of the kingdom split again. They were never again re-united and suffered from decline, invasion and foreign occupation.

The Gospel writers make it clear that they saw Jesus as the new King David. He was descended from him but also his character and moral authority was like his ancestor and fitted him for honour and respect. Jesus made it clear, though, that he was not going to establish an earthly kingdom. He was not bringing back the golden age. Jesus was not to reign over an earthly kingdom like Israel or Judah. Instead Jesus preached about the kingdom of heaven, something far greater and for all people everywhere and in every time. He sent out his disciples not to wage war and force people to submit to him, but to preach, teach and heal. They went out vulnerable and entirely dependent, going in peace. They were to stay wherever they were made welcome but not linger in places
where they were not wanted.

Great David’s greater Son
As the hymn-writer put it, Jesus was “great David’s greater Son”. Jesus did accept the ideals of kingship that people saw in David. Jesus, too, was a shepherd of his people: The Good Shepherd. He was their defender, protector and provider, but in the realm of the spirit, in morals and in seeking justice whoever happened to be the temporal ruler at the time. Jesus was not bothered about Herod or the Roman governor of their occupied land. He was more concerned about the way people dealt with each other and God in their ordinary, everyday lives. Whatever earthly power was in charge, the poor, the ill, the vulnerable and those possessed by evil, had to be defended, protected and provided for. Even when he fed 5,000 miraculously, he refused to be made into their earthly king. He was anointed, not with oil but the Holy Spirit. He was not made a king by an army commander or prophet, but came as the Son of the King of Heaven. He came to be the Good Shepherd.

Through the experience of King David way back in the history of God’s people, God was gradually revealing more of his will for the world. Earthly rulers come and go. The ways in which human society runs itself change with time. But God calls us to live both as citizens of heaven and as people in this world. Jesus calls us to follow him, to lead good lives as his spiritual flock. But these lives are also practical, and often through our everyday lives and the things we are involved with we can give expression to the higher values by which we live; to the kingdom of heaven where we belong in the end. Sometimes we have to be courageous to stand up to wrong; other times we simply have to do good wherever and whenever the opportunity arises.

Copyright © Rev Paul Smith





Gracious Father,
by the obedience of Jesus
you brought salvation to our wayward world:
draw us into harmony with your will,
that we may find all things restored in him,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.