David is recalled for his gifts, faults

Friday, December 02, 2016 - Updated: 6:00 am

QUESTION: The Scriptures for Advent often talk about King David. From what I know he was not a good example of observing God’s law. Why then is he so important in the Old and New Testament? Most of all, why would Jesus be called the Son of David?

ANSWER: David’s first appearance in the Bible is as one of the eight sons of Jesse (1 Samuel 16:1-3). Although the youngest, he is chosen and anointed king by Samuel. Throughout his life, David appears to be a man of destiny. Despite many trials, difficulties and failures, God’s hand is upon him.

David is portrayed as a warrior and bandit who at times seems to show little respect for human life. He is prone to violence and extreme passion. Yet, there is within him a loyalty toward his people and a desire to be faithful to God.

These two strains are accurately portrayed in the Bible. The first and second books of Samuel frankly describe David with all of his shortcomings. While 1 Chronicles lavishes praise on David to the point of obscuring anything that would place him in an unfavorable light.

The Chronicler’s view is understandable, for it was not expected that Israel’s king would necessarily excel as a moral or religious leader but as a defender of the nation. David was seen as an ideal king more precisely because he united Israel’s many elements, vanquished her foes and established her as a great nation. No one else had done as much.

As the kingship of David deteriorated, however, the focus seems to shift more from the real David to David as an ideal. Nathan’s promise to David about an eternal dynasty (2 Samuel 7:8-17) could then be fulfilled by one who would come after him. God’s promise would endure and be fulfilled in someone even greater than David who would establish the long hoped-for kingdom of God.

With this hope, it was completely understandable that the New Testament would see Jesus as the fulfillment of that dream. Jesus, the Messiah and descendant of David, would fulfill the promise made to David. In addition, the New Testament recalls that David was a shepherd and king. The imagery of shepherd found its fulfillment in Jesus, who, as the Good Shepherd, gave his life for the sheep.

Thus, each of the Gospels (Matthew 22:45; Mark 12:35; Luke 20:41; John 7:42) placed great emphasis on the fact that Jesus was a descendant of David’s royal line. This is nowhere more evident than in the events of Palm Sunday, where Jesus is welcomed into the city of Jerusalem and greeted with the sounds of “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matthew 21:9-15).

In any case, David’s importance is rooted in his identity as the beginning of the dynasty that received its fulfillment in Christ. David is remembered for the good that he did and the future hope partially realized in him. Like the Scriptures, the church clearly recalls David as who he was with his gifts and faults. It is only in Jesus that the ideal king and shepherd finds its fulfillment.

Father Bober is pastor of St. Kilian Parish in Adams and Cranberry townships.

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