If you have ever played a game of chess, you will know the importance of your King. He is your most precious piece. If you lose your king, you lose the game. To succeed at chess you must have a king and make sure he is always well-defended.
Three thousand years ago the same principle applied to the people of Israel. The nation had lost its first king, Saul, on the field of battle, and as a result, God’s people were leaderless and vulnerable. They lacked someone to unify them and they lacked a well-defended capital city from which to resist their enemies. To use a chess metaphor, the Israelites were in danger of being put in ‘check-mate’ by their Canaanite opponents.
Faithful Israelites must have wondered what had happened to God’s past promises. What had happened to God’s promises to let his people live securely in the Promised Land? What had happened to his past promise to give them a new king, superior to Saul?
If we are honest, we too doubt God’s promises from time to time. I’m sure we all have times when we doubt God’s promises to us as Christians. Promises of forgiveness, hope, help and life. If we ever fear that such promises of God can be too old or improbable to come true, then today’s passage should reassure us greatly. It’s a passage with a coronation and a conquest. Two events that God had promised his people many years earlier. Two promises that God fulfilled despite much opposition.
So as we look at this passage this morning, I want to increase our confidence in God’s ability to keep his promises, however old they are and whatever opposition they face. So let’s begin.
David is acknowledged as king (v.1-5, 12)
If you were alive in 1953 you may have watched the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey. As a constitutional monarch she took an oath before her people. She made a commitment before her subjects to uphold the law, to rule with justice and mercy, and to uphold the Protestant faith of our Church of England. Her majesty’s coronation was a momentous and powerful occasion.
Our passage this morning describes another momentous coronation, the installation of David as the ruler of all Israel. Verses 1 to 5 tells us that the tribes of Israel “came to David at Hebron” and anointed him as king over the whole nation.
The tribes had all come to recognise David’s suitability for the job. The had come to realise that David had the right pedigree and the right talents to be king. Look at verses 1 and 2 with me. The tribes said to David: “We are your own flesh and blood” and “in the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on our military campaigns”. David had the lineage and the leadership skills to be a ruler. But most importantly, the tribal leaders of Israel had recognised David to be God’s long-promised king. Listen to what they say in verse 2: “the LORD said to you ‘You shall shepherd my people Israel, and you shall become their ruler.’”
If you were here a fortnight ago, you will remember that we looked at 1 Samuel chapter 16. That chapter describes events well over a decade earlier, when God first chose David to be the future king of Israel. The shepherd boy from Bethlehem was promised that he would one day shepherd God’s people, not sheep. You may remember that David was anointed by oil and filled with the Holy Spirit as signs of that promise.
Probably two decades passed before David became king of all Israel. Many years separated David’s first, private anointing by Samuel and his public anointing by the elders of Israel in verse 3 today. The passage of time had not nullified God’s promise. Nor had opponents stopped God’s plans for David being fulfilled. Between 1 Samuel 16 and today’s passage God had rescued David from attacks by wild animals, from assassination attempts by king Saul, and (as we heard last week) from attacks by Goliath and the Philistine army. For over two decades God’s guiding hand had kept David from harm and brought his purposes to fulfilment.
You see, no human opposition could stop God’s promises and plan being completed – and the same is true today. God is willing and able keep every promise he has made to us as Christians.
The king who’s worth our allegiance
I enjoy detective programmes on TV, and my wife and I have recently been watching the underwater detective drama “Vigil” on BBC One, following the clues to deduce ‘who done it!’
If we follow the clues in our passage today, we should deduce that David would become a good and godly king. We should spot the evidence that he wanted to be constitutional monarch not an authoritarian tyrant.
We are told in verse 12, for example, David recognised his reign was “for the sake of God’s people” – not for his own fame and fortune – and made a covenant with them to ratify that fact.
As we’ve already seen in recent weeks, David’s life is designed to point us to Jesus – David’s greatest descendant and the king of God’s people today. Like David, Jesus was a humble king. He said he came “not to be served but to serve, and to lay down his life as a ransom for many”. He would lay down his life so his faithful subjects could become Good’s forgiven friends forever.
So our choice today is similar to the choice that faced the tribes of Israel in the time of David. Will we give Jesus our full allegiance, just like the elders of Israel pledged their loyalty to David? Will we willingly submit to Jesus as our God-given King? I hope so!
You see, King Jesus is well worth our total allegiance. If we follow him he gives us God’s forgiveness and friendship forever. If we let him rule our lives, he offers us a life of unparalleled purpose, direction and meaning.
Jerusalem is captured (v.6-11)
Our reading this morning included a capture as well as a coronation, didn’t it? Nearly a thousand years before David, God had promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit Jerusalem. After a thousand years, God had decided the time was right to fulfil his promise. As we see in verses 6-11 this morning, the arrival of David on the throne was the moment God gave Jerusalem to his chosen King.
But there were opponents to overcome if the promise was to come true. The Jebusites who occupied the city weren’t going to give it up without a fight. They felt totally secure in their fortress city, safe at the top of Mount Zion. Verse 7 shows us their complacency, because “The Jebusites said to David ‘You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off!’”
But the Jebusites had met their match. Verse 8 suggests David discovered a water shaft providing underground access to the city. A way in for David and his army to conquer the city and capture the fortress. Like the giant Goliath we met last week, the arrogant Jebusites could not thwart the promises of God.
Jerusalem was swiftly renamed the ‘City of David’, and made the secure capital of David’s kingdom. And for the rest of his forty year reign, Jerusalem was the place where God’s people could live under King David’s protection and leadership. It had taken over a thousand years for God to fulfil his promise to Abraham, but it was worth the wait!
The New Jerusalem: Worth waiting for!
The city of Jerusalem still stands today of course, but is sadly no longer such a place of peace and security. But the New Testament tells us that the earthly Jerusalem that David enjoyed was just a signpost to a New Jerusalem, an eternal city that Christians will one day enjoy forever. God’s greatest promise to his people today, to subjects of King Jesus, is that one day we will live in a New Jerusalem. The New Testament book of Revelation tells us that followers of King Jesus will one day live in a perfect city in a perfect world. A city without sin or suffering. An eternal city that will need no street lights, because God’s glory will be its illumination.
This portrait the New Testament paints of the New Jerusalem is an enticing and attractive one. A promise we long to see fulfilled. And as we wait, please be reassured by the lessons we’ve learnt in our passage today. Time is no obstacle to God fulfilling his promises. And no opponent can ever thwart God’s promises his people.
Be confident that if you choose to follow King Jesus, we will inherit his heavenly city. Its a promise that the passage of time will never invalidate. It’s a certain hope that no opponent can ever take away.
Copyright © 2015-2018 St John the Evangelist, Ashton Hayes. All rights reserved.