David: the shepherd king

The story of David is one of the most famous narratives in antiquity. In fact, there is more information in the Bible about David, more verses and passages, than any other person, except for Jesus. David is a man who shaped a nation, formed a paradigm for leadership, and epitomised devotion to God.

Of course many of the stories about David seem the stuff of legend. As an unknown and unlikely youth, he defeats the giant Goliath. He is unprotected and alone, and yet wins a mighty victory for his people. Here was the shepherd boy who becomes the shepherd king (Ps. 78:72); Israel’s most famous king: a man of charisma, valour, and inspiration.

However, David had his other qualities as well. He was a man well acquainted with suffering and grief; the psalmist in touch with his sorrows and sins. There’s also the hot-tempered bully, the lustful playboy, and the neglectful father.

Many readers of the Bible warm to David. We love his inspirational qualities, his defiance of enemies, his humility, his passion, and strength. Yet, he was also deeply flawed.  He let people down. Even though he was a man “after God’s own heart”, he was himself entangled in sin and moral failure.

David’s story teaches us to anticipate the greater hero, Jesus

Amongst the many lessons that David’s life teaches us, is that we need a greater hero. We need someone without David’s flaws, who will be able to lead his people and give them victory over their enemies. If anything, David’s story teaches us to anticipate the greater hero, Jesus, who gives us victory over our greatest enemies, sin and death.

At Christmas, if you looked closely, David’s name was repeatedly mentioned. The angels announced to Mary that she would have a son and “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32). Zechariah praised God saying, “He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David” (Luke 1:69). And the angel announced to the shepherds, “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

The Gospel writers are telling us that unless you understand David, you won’t understand Jesus. Unless you understand the story of David, you won’t understand the meaning of the birth of Jesus. So, over the next two months, we’ll look at the story of David, the shepherd king who points us to the greatest King who shepherded his people.


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