I’ve recently been teaching my son James to play chess. We’ve had fun learning the moves and playing some games – and I’m sure it won’t be long before he is beating me hands down! One of the first things I taught James about chess is 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 you must make sure he is 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 the northern tribes of Israel had separated from the southern tribe of Judah. As a result, God’s people were divided and vulnerable. They lacked a leader to unify them and they lacked a well-defended capital city from which to resist the attacks of 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, a new king superior to Saul? God’s chosen people must have wondered whether he had forgotten his promises to them, or wondered whether their enemies had thwarted his plans. 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. For example, its sometimes tempting to think that too much time has elapsed since those big promises were made. Its tempting to think that God has forgotten promises that he made two thousand years ago in Jesus. As a parent, I’m ashamed to say that I often forget promises I make to my children. I forget promises I’ve made to let them watch a particular TV programme, read them a special bedtime story or buy them a treat. Perhaps our heavenly Father is the same? Perhaps God’s past promises to Christians are long forgotten?
At other times we may think that God won’t come good on his promises to us because the opposition is just too strong. We may believe that our guilt had just got too big for God to forgive us. We may believe that the personal struggles we face are more than God can help us with. Or we may think that there is so much death and evil in the world that even God could never overcome it. In short, we fear that God’s promises can be invalidated by opposition. We fear that circumstances can successfully conspire against God’s plans. If we ever fear that the promises of God can be too old or too unlikely 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.
Jesus: The king who’s worth our allegiance
I like detective programmes on TV, and my personal favourite at the moment is BBC One’s “Death in Paradise”. I enjoy watching bumbling detective Humphrey Goodman follow clues around the beautiful Caribbean island of Saint-Marie. Watching him track down the evidence to solve a case. 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 3, for example, that he made a made a compact (or covenant) with his citizens. Like our own queen, David made promises to serve and defend his subjects. And verse 12 tells us David recognised his reign was “for the sake of God’s people” - not for his own fame and fortune.
As we’ve seen already 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”. Like King David, Jesus also offers his people a covenant. If we put our faith in him he promises us forgiveness in this life and God’s friendship 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 him as our God-given King? A king who reigns forever, not just for forty years. I hope so! But what does it mean in practice to make Jesus our king? How can we show our allegiance to Jesus in our daily lives? Here are a few examples for us to consider:
- If Jesus is our king, we should put our time at his disposal. It may mean a little less time for ourselves, and a little more time taken up serving others in our family, our church or our community.
- If Jesus is our king, it should affects our wallets as well. We should be seeking to give generously to the Church and other Christian causes. Subjects of king Jesus should be investing in God’s work in Gidea Park and beyond.
- If we are subjects of King Jesus we should also let his priorities direct our careers and ambitions. Rather than using our talents to maximise our income or boost our reputation, we should use them where we can put our God-given gifts to best effect.
- If Jesus rules our lives it will affect our most intimate relationships as well. A Christian husband will make every sacrifice for his wife, just as Jesus sacrificed himself for his Church. And a Christian parent will want to prioritise church for their children, ahead of sport or other Sunday morning alternatives.
- And finally, if we follow King Jesus we will make sure our circle of friends is wider than just those who share our interests, our background or our standard of living. Above all, we will seek out those who need to know the love of Christ for themselves.
You see, King Jesus is well worth our total allegiance. His rule should make a real difference to our lives.
Jerusalem is captured (v.6-11)
Returning to our passage this morning, verses 6 to 11 show another of God’s past promises being fulfilled. Because nearly a thousand years before David, God had promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit Jerusalem. In Genesis chapter 15 God had promised Abraham that his offspring would eventually inherit the land of the Jebusites, which included the city of Jerusalem. After a thousand years, God had decided the time was right to fulfil his promise. The arrival of David on the throne was the right moment to give Jerusalem to his chosen King. But there were opponents to overcome if the promise was to come true. The Jebusites still occupied the city, and they 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. The arrogant Jebusites could not thwart the promises of God. Jerusalem was swiftly called 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. Above all, the book of Revelation describes the world to come as the New Jerusalem. God’s greatest promise to his people today, to subjects of King Jesus, is that one day we will live in a New Jerusalem. We will live in a perfect city in a perfect world in which we will enjoy God’s presence and protection for eternity. A city without sin or suffering. A city in which God himself will live. An eternal city that will need no artificial light, 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 we are followers of 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.