The prophet Samuel told King Saul that his kingship wouldn’t endure and that the Lord had selected a man after His own heart to be Israel’s next king. (1 Samuel 13:14) Samuel was referring to David, the youngest of Jesse’s eight sons, in the tribe of Ephraim, whom Samuel hadn’t even met yet. In Hebrew, David’s name means “beloved.” Why did God select David to be the next king? In my view, David committed sins that were despicable and far worse than Saul’s. So how was David’s heart like God’s? Why was David deserving of a kingship that would endure whereas Saul was not?
In a word, love. David truly loved the Lord and as a young man, in faith, he placed his relationship with God above of all other priorities in his life. In this regard, he was a fractal image of Jesus Christ — many events in David’s story were symbolic foreshadows of the story of the Messiah. For example, when David first appears in the Bible, we’re made aware that he was an unlikely choice to be king. He was physically smaller and more humble in appearance than his brothers. Indeed, Samuel was surprised God chose David, but God told him: “Do not consider his appearance or his height… The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) Likewise, by appearances, Jesus was an unlikely Messiah. He was born in a stable and laid in a feeding trough for a crib — humble digs for the King of kings.
Both David and Jesus were born in Bethlehem, which is Hebrew for “house of bread.” Both were from the tribe of Ephraim (Hebrew for “doubly fruitful”) which is considered to be the branch of Israelites that became Christianity, whereas the tribe of Judah (Hebrew for “praise”) represents Judaism.1
David not only didn’t look kingly but he was a shepherd, which was among the lowest and least honorable stations a man could attain in society. Yet, David’s role as shepherd taught him to be humble, faithful, and brave in serving his father. David told King Saul how he put his life on the line to protect his sheep. He said: “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth.” Similarly, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) And later: “My sheep listen to my voice… My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29) So, both men were shepherds in service to their fathers.
Both David and Jesus were merciful. A jealous King Saul relentlessly hunted David and tried to kill him. The Lord delivered King Saul into David’s hands several times and so David could easily have killed Saul but instead spared his life out of respect for the Lord’s anointed. Jesus forgave people’s sins and healed the blind and the sick and lame. He even restored the cut-off ear of one of the soldiers who came to arrest Him. Ultimately, Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for ours (those who believe in Him). Moments before He died on the cross, Jesus prayed for his murderers: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Both David and Jesus made humble entrances into Jerusalem as king-to-be. When David first went to Jerusalem to meet King Saul, he was riding on a donkey. Three things to note about this fact: (i) when we first met Saul in The Bible, he was pursuing his father’s lost donkeys, which he never found. His pursuit of lost donkeys foreshadowed how Saul would go astray in pursuing his own Earthly desires rather than following the Lord. Conversely, David going to meet Saul riding on a donkey foreshadowed precisely the reverse: he would master and control his stubborn earthly tendencies.
(ii) In addition to being stubborn and earthly, donkeys were regarded as humble, gentle, and peaceful creatures, in contrast to horses which were regarded as noble, bold, and powerful. To have ridden in on a horse would have been to strike a warrior’s or conqueror’s posture, whereas riding a donkey showed peace, gentleness, and humility. Also, David carried bread, wine, and a young goat — all symbolic elements of the sacrifice made at Passover (which, I suspect, was the time of year when David went to Jerusalem). And we know that it was just before Passover when Jesus made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, hailed by the people as King while riding on a donkey. (Matthew 21:1-11) Indeed, Jesus was THE Passover Lamb (more on that in a future blog).
(iii) David was a foreshadow and Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy by Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey,… I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations.” (Zechariah 9:9-10)
David loved the Lord greatly; in this regard he was an image of Jesus. David wrote Psalms proclaiming his love for the Lord. Likewise, Jesus loved His Father. He told the Pharisees that the greatest commandment of all is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)
David is perhaps most famous for defeating Goliath. David displayed a bold faith by eagerly going to battle the well-armed, well-trained, 9-foot-tall giant when no one else would dare to. In Hebrew, “Goliath” derives from the Hebrew verb gala, meaning “to uncover, remove, or go into exile.”2 True to his name, Goliath offered a “deal” to the Israelites: “Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our [Philistines’] subjects and serve us.” (1 Samuel 17:8-9) With this taunt, Goliath showed himself to be an image of satan.
Goliath taunted the Israelites for forty days. In The Bible, the number forty represents a period of time in which God calls a person or nation to go on a spiritual journey with Him. (Noah was on the ark forty days, Jesus was tempted in the desert forty days, etc.) David’s confrontation with Goliath was a pivotal moment for both him and the nation of Israel. For David, it was a life-or-death situation. For the Israelites, it meant possibly going back into exile and enslavement again after God had freed them from Egypt and set them apart in a covenant relationship with Himself.
David trusted the Lord completely and went boldly into battle. He said to Goliath: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head… All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s…” (1 Samuel 17:45-46) Indeed it was, and so it happened just as he said: David, an image of Jesus Christ, slew Goliath, an image of satan, with one well-slung stone.
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem, everyone in the city came out to greet him, shouting: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” The word “hosanna” derives from the Hebrew hoshiya na, which means “save us now.” The term hoshiya na (hosanna) appears only once in the Old Testament, in Psalm 118:25, written by David, who was calling upon the Lord to save him and the Israelites. This Psalm is an echo of what he said to Goliath (“the Lord saves”) and what the Israelites were chanting when Jesus rode into Jerusalem: “Son of David, save us now!”
I find it fascinating that the very next verse says: “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’” (Matthew 21:9-10) They knew who it was. His reputation had preceded Him and they were lined up to greet Him. Yet, suddenly they didn’t know who He was…? The same thing happened to Saul as he watched David going out to meet Goliath in battle. Saul knew well who it was, yet he turned to one of his commanders and asked: “Whose son is that young man?” (1 Samuel 17:55) In both scenes, eyewitnesses were probably experiencing “cognitive dissonance” — they saw clearly what was happening in the material world but were also getting a glimpse of the deeper spiritual truth of what was happening, which would have confused or disoriented anyone who was not in the right relationship with God. Scholars note that the verb gala (to uncover or remove) also denotes the uncovering of a sensory organ, such as the ear or eye.2 The word is used in contexts when something or someone is being revealed, such as a secret, or a message, or a truth of God.2
True to His Word, God fought Goliath for David. He saved David’s life and saved Israel from slavery. Thus, David’s improbable defeat of the giant foreshadowed the bigger story of The Bible: that Jesus would defeat satan and sin, thereby saving us all from exile from God’s eternal kingdom and, therefore, death.
David was indeed a man after God’s own heart. He loved the Lord and acted boldly in his faith. Thus, the Lord helped David defeat a great evil that he couldn’t have overcome on his own. Later, King David would face an even greater challenge: himself.
1 Chumney, Eddie (1999): Restoring the Two Houses of Israel. Serenity Books.
2 Uittenbogaard, Arie (2000-2011): “Meaning and etymology of the name Goliath.” Copyright www.abarim-publications.com. (Accessed on January 20, 2014)