Old Testament Fulfillment Series: Great David’s Greater Son

2 Sam. 7:11b-16; Luke 1:26-33; Matt. 22:41-46; Rev. 11:15

Christ does not abolish the Law but fulfills it and then deepens the Law for us in many profound ways and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, calls us to life in the kingdom under the rule and reign of God. Christ is the fulfillment of the kingship of David, for there is no kingdom without a King. Looking at 2 Samuel 7, we see that the origin of the kingship was not for the sake of seeing God’s kingly rule visibly embodied among the Israelites; no, it was born out of rebellion and rejection of God’s rule. Israel wanted a king because they wanted to be like all the other nations (1 Sam. 8:20). Samuel even told them to their face that their demand for a king was a rejection of God’s rule over them. When Samuel came before the Lord with their request, the Lord said, “Listen to the people; it is not you they have rejected as their king, but me” (1 Sam. 8:7). 

The people kept demanding a king, and Samuel finally anointed Saul, a man from the tribe of Benjamin. If you go back to Genesis 49 and read Jacob’s prophecy over each of his twelve children, you will remember that he said of Benjamin, “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf who devours his prey” (Gen. 49:27). Contrast that with his prophecy concerning Judah: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from beneath his feet” (Gen. 49:10). The scepter is the major symbol of a king – his authority, power, and rule. The tribe of Judah, not Benjamin, was ultimately destined by God to be the bearer of the kingship. Because it began out of rebellion rather than obedience, however, the first king was specifically chosen from Benjamin.  Samuel even presented this first king as a ravenous wolf by using the word “take” five times in his warning: he will take your sons and daughters and make them his servants; he will take the best of your crops; he will take your grain; and so forth. Samuel described how this new king would not serve the people but would plunder and devour them. Their response, however, was still, “We want a king to rule over us. Then we will be like all the other nations” (1 Sam. 8:19, 20). 

Throughout this overview of essential Old Testament characters, we have seen a number of important choices which the people of God had to make. The Latin phrase “non posse non peccare” (not able not to sin) is not about the obliteration of choice or the power of choice; it is about the presence of sin and the ways in which sin invariably distorts our lives. Adam’s choice to obey God’s voice and submit to God’s rule or to take of the fruit, assert his own rule, and try to be like God; Abraham’s choice to follow in the pattern of the world, settle down, and make a name for himself or to become a pilgrim for the Lord and let God make his name great; Moses’ choice to attempt deliverance on his own strength or to wait on God to equip him. Likewise for Israel, Saul and David became symbols of two very different types of kingship. Saul is the anti-king, representing all the ways we assert our own rule over God’s rule, while David represents the true kingship of God’s righteous rule and reign. Saul represents human strength; he was literally a head taller than any of the other men, handsome, physically strong, self-confident, and impressive. David was the picture of human frailty: the youngest in his family, small, a child, and a shepherd. Saul trusted in his own strength rather than in God. David, meanwhile, was a man after God’s own heart who, even in his sin, was quick to repent and ask forgiveness.

When Samuel anoints David as king, we notice that David is from Bethlehem, of the tribe of Judah. He is chosen from among his seven older brothers, to the astonishment of his father Jesse and the prophet Samuel. Rejecting the tall, physically impressive sons, God reminds Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height…the Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). David is chosen for the heart that God desired and for the character that would set him apart as Israel’s greatest king. 

Early on, David’s character is revealed in a way that dramatically contrasts with Saul. Saul was interested in settling down, making his own name great, and building his own kingdom. David, in contrast, when confronted by Goliath, revealed his trust in God’s word and God’s faithfulness. Throughout the encounter, he was more interested in God’s honor and glory than in his own honor and name. Remember that it took Moses 40 years in the wilderness of Midian to learn that his greatest provision was God’s name (“I AM has sent you”), God’s authority (the staff), and God’s word (God gave him the words to speak). David, it seems, understood those basic lessons even as a young person. He declared 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” (1 Sam. 17:45). David exemplifies one who trusts in God’s name, God’s authority, and God’s word. 

After David consolidated his rule over Israel, and the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem, the Lord spoke to David saying, “The Lord Himself will establish a house for you. When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom…Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever (1 Sam. 7:11b-16). From this promise developed the messianic expectation that the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah, specifically from the line of David and the town of Bethlehem. This becomes part of Israel’s hope, as demonstrated in texts such as Psalm 132:11, Micah 5:2, and Isaiah 9:6-7. Even in the midst of judgment and exile, when the lofty cedars of Lebanon were felled and the forests cut low, Isaiah reminded the people that a shoot would come up from the stump of Jesse. This is confirmed with the coming of Jesus. The thread weaves through the New Testament. The Annunciation, the Visit of the Magi, and Jesus’ public ministry declare Jesus’ kingship. Other verses that declare Jesus as King include:

Matthew 22:41-46 – If David calls Him Lord, how can He be his son?

Luke 11:20 – “But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

I Cor. 15:25 – “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”

Col 1:13 – “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. 

Phil 2:9-11 – “He has been given the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” 

Hebrews 1:8 – “But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.’”

Revelation 4:9-10 – He is seated on a throne, and the 24 elders worship him.

Rev. 11:15 – “There were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.’”

Rev. 19:6 – “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.”

Rev. 19:11-16 – “…From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”          

One of the most important titles of Jesus in the New Testament is “Son of David.” Jesus Christ is Great David’s greater son. In Psalm 110, by calling his son “Lord,” David even recognized that his son would be greater than he was. David ruled an earthly throne; Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father. David won many earthly battles; Jesus won the cosmic battle against the powers of Satan. David was but a reflection of God’s kingly rule; Jesus is the embodiment of the kingdom and the central figure in the rule and reign of God. David was a man after God’s own heart; Jesus is the very heart of God itself. Jesus is the perfect embodiment of the righteous rule and reign of God. Today, we can praise Him and proclaim Him King. We can declare that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10-11). We can prophetically see that one day, the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever (Rev. 11:15). One of the great joys we have as Christians is that we can look in the back of the book and know who wins! We know the final outcome! Jesus is Lord. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah rules and reigns the universe. To Him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever. Hallelujah!

John Wesley believed the church is always in reformation. One of the things I love about the Wesleyan development is that Wesley has the perspective to look back on the Reformation and actually build upon it and nuance it. The 16th century is not a closed unit. We are built upon the Reformation, yet we extend it. We praise God for justification of faith, yet Wesley brought out so many more aspects of grace. He brought out prevenient grace, justifying grace, sanctifying grace, even glorifying grace. We saw in the work of the Reformation that Christ is the central figure in justification, but Wesley brings out the Holy Spirit as a central figure in sanctification. Wesley brought us a better understanding of the Old Testament than we had in the past. The dichotomy between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace creates the idea that the law is bad and grace is good. Yet Wesley challenged this dialectic with a focus on Christ as the New Lawgiver, deepening the Law. 

Wesley also brought us the restoration of ecclesiology. The Reformation gave us faith alone, grace alone, and Christ alone. We praise God for all of that. But what about the church? Wesley said we also have to remember that God is building a community. You can’t have a proper celebration of the kingship of Christ without realizing He is building His kingdom. He’s calling us into community, into fellowship with Himself. Wesley said, “Holy solitaries is a phrase no more consistent with the gospel than holy adulterers. The Gospel of Christ knows no religion but social; no holiness, but social holiness.” 

He’s talking about the corporate nature of the people of God. If we look at the ethos of God’s rule in the Old Testament, three main themes stand out: justice, covenant faithfulness, and compassion. Throughout the whole Old Testament, God’s righteous character is exemplified through His care for the poor, weak, and powerless. To be under God’s rule and reign was to take on His care for those most vulnerable. That’s what God’s character represents; that’s what it means to be His people in the world. 

This is once again where Wesley comes in with a tremendous help to us. For we have dichotomized what you might call the gospel of evangelism and the gospel of social action. The gospel of evangelism is the proclamation of the good news that sinful people can be forgiven and reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The church’s primary mission is to proclaim this good news, calling people to repent and place their faith in Jesus Christ. The gospel of social action is the church’s cultural mandate to express God’s love practically through tangible acts of compassion and justice for the poor, the homeless, the sick, and the disenfranchised. Jesus declares, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matt. 25:35-36). You end up with a paradigm of Billy Graham versus Mother Teresa, as if we have to choose between the two. We’ve allowed some parts of the church to put these two gospels in tension. There are a lot of ways this happens. For example, social action can be used as a bridge to evangelism; or relief and development can be used as a foothold in the aftermath of evangelism; or relief and development can be considered legitimate only when occurring alongside evangelism.

Most Christians accept that both evangelism and social action are important, and Wesley helps us resolve the relationship between the two through the kingship of Jesus. Wesley makes it very clear that we must never fail to recognize the fundamental unity of word and deed. They’re united in the King. In the New Testament, you see Jesus teaching, casting out demons, and healing. Jesus embodies all of this. 

We must resist the individualism that does not make room for varying gifts and graces within the body of Christ. God has given different gifts to different people. All of it together is the manifestation of the beauty of Christ’s rule and reign in the world. Why would an evangelist in North Africa say to the one teaching at a Bible college in the Philippines, “I have no need of you, because evangelism is the most important ministry in the church”? Why would missionaries out in the field say to those who stay behind and mobilize support that they are not essential for the overall ministry of the church in the world? Only collectively, as each group exercises their gifts, can the full measure of Christ’s ministry of preaching, teaching and healing be reflected in the world.

All authentic ministry must be lived out within the context of the kingship of Jesus Christ. It is not merely about discipling individuals, it is about us summoning the entire culture to the in-breaking realities of the New Creation under the kingship of Jesus Christ. Evangelism is the permeation of the whole gospel into every aspect of a culture and demonstrating, through word and deed, what it means to be “in Christ.” Evangelism embraces speaking, doing and being. The church is to be a community of health, demonstrating through our life, words and witness the qualities of justice (mishpat), kindness/faithfulness (hesed) and compassion (rahmim). 

Our understanding of relief and development has become overly secularized.  Because many governments and non-governmental organizations are involved in relief and development, we can easily forget that secular indicators of health are insufficient for Christians who have a more holistic understanding of poverty that includes the ultimate poverty of being separated from Christ. The economic models of this world focus on self-interest and independence rather than on the kind of mutual interdependence that is central to God’s vision for redeemed humanity.

Secularized social action fails to understand that inner city youth killing other youth is not simply a crime problem but fundamentally a spiritual problem; a longing for the true shalom of God. The church is not just sponsoring another welfare program; we are summoning men and women to the community of the New Creation. Furthermore, secular development concepts fail to appreciate the profound poverty in the affluent world, which is manifested in the loneliness, isolation, fragmented families and spiritual indifference that plague even our most affluent communities.   

A biblical understanding of relief and development can only be properly united to a more robust conception of evangelism if the ministries of the whole church are understood with an eschatological perspective. Evangelism and social action are both signs of the New Creation that is being ushered in through the missio dei. Seen in a larger eschatological framework, biblical faith is related to social conversion; personal conversion to the cries of the poor; theological reflection to the care for the environment; core religious values to new economic priorities; the call of community to racial and gender justice; morality to foreign policy; and spirituality to politics.[1] We are not simply offering “help” to the poor from our isolated places of security, isolation and privilege. We minister out of a profound sense of remembering. In Exodus 23:9, the Lord says to His people, “Do not oppress an alien; you yourself know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.” We remember that we, too, were once in bondage. We remember that we, too, once knew nothing of the glorious riches to which we have become heirs through the extravagant generosity of God’s grace. We see our own faces in the faces of the immigrant, the homeless, and the spiritually downtrodden. Only in the gospel can the dividing wall of hostility be broken down. Only through the work of Christ can we transcend the barriers of “us” and “them” and discover our shared place in the new humanity. 

My prayer is that we would never simply understand the kingship of Christ, Great David’s greater son, as a slogan, “Jesus is Lord.” It’s not a slogan. It has massive implications for how we live our lives, how we embody the rule and reign of God. People should encounter us in the ministries of our churches and have their breath taken away by the powerful embodiment of God’s gracious rule in their midst.

[1] Jim Wallis, 47.


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