“(The Lord) chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion which he loves. He built his sanctuary like the high heavens, like the earth, which he has founded forever. He chose his servant David, and took him from the sheepfolds; from tending the nursing ewes he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel, his inheritance. With upright heart he tended them, and guided them with skillful hand.” So, says Psalm 78. David, the shepherd of his father’s sheep became King David, the shepherd of God’s people.
David was not the first or last of Israel’s and Judah’s kings, but he was the greatest – the one that all the others were measured against. His kingdom stretched even beyond the borders of the land that God promised to Abraham. David was ruddy and handsome, a skilled musician, a passionate poet, a fearless warrior, a charismatic leader, and a cunning politician. He wasn’t perfect, but he had all the attributes one would look for in a king. Yet, when he was first anointed, no one could have imagined that he would have been God’s chosen one. David ruled God’s people with equity and justice. He was a man after God’s own heart. He learned to love the Lord with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind, even if he at times failed to love his neighbor as himself. And when he wavered in his love of God or neighbor, he confessed and repented of his sin.
But sadly, David’s Kingdom would not last forever. After his son Solomon failed to seek the Lord, the way David had done, much of the kingdom was torn from David’s grandson, Rehoboam. Most of the rest of David’s descendants ruled Judah poorly, leading God’s people into sin and idolatry. It got so bad that the Lord finally handed his people over to destruction and captivity. For nearly 600 years, God’s people were without a king. But they weren’t without hope.
They hoped that one day, God would restore to them a king from the line of David who would defeat their pagan oppressors and expand the borders of Israel farther than they had ever been. Many of the prophets spoke of a deliverer to come and some of the Psalms, especially Psalms 2 and 110 hinted at similar ideas.
But just as David seemed to be an unlikely choice for king, so God finally chose to deliver his people in a most unexpected way. Rather than attacking the Roman legions on horseback, leading an army wielding the typical weapons of war, God’s anointed, Jesus, rode into Jerusalem humbly on a donkey. The real enemy he came to defeat wasn’t the pagan oppression of the Roman Empire, but the enemy of all of humanity – sin and death. And instead of sitting on a throne in the middle of Jerusalem, Jesus, the true King, was enthroned upon the splintered logs of a Roman cross. God’s victory would be won, not through violence and vindictiveness, but through submission and surrender.
One of Judah’s prophets had laid out the blueprint of how God would ultimately win his victory, but most of Jesus’ contemporaries failed to grasp the message. Hear the words from Isaiah 52 and 53. “See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. Just as there were many who were astonished at him…so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him…Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity…Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all…Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin…Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great…because he poured out himself to death…and made intercession for transgressors.”
In his life and ministry, Jesus was everything that the kings of Judah and Israel had failed to be. In his life and ministry, Jesus was everything that the people of Israel had failed to be. They were to be a light to the nations and to be that suffering servant described by Isaiah. But they had failed in their God-given vocation. But Jesus was faithful and did not fail. He was faithful, all the way to death. All of humanity had been called by God to be his image-bearing creatures to the rest of creation, and of course, we’ve all failed in this vocation as well. But Jesus, the true human, the true Israelite, and the true King, was faithful, and completed the task that none of us could complete. God the Son, showed us what it truly means to be human. Jesus has forever bridged the gap between God and us, by becoming one of us. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!
An early church hymn, quoted by the apostle Paul, said it this way. “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
We serve a risen and exalted King. May we live this day, and each and every day in hopeful expectation as we await the return of our King! - Shay