Bethlehem came to be known as the City of David, because he was born there. Jesus had to be born there as well to fulfill a prophecy that says, “But you Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are by no means least among the clans of Judah, out of you will come from me one who will be ruler over Israel.”(Micah 5:2)
Instead of confronting the giant Goliath with traditional armour and sword, David used stones and his trusty slingshot to fell him. Confounding expectations in a similar way, Jesus did not come as a king, or get born into the priesthood, or rout the Romans. Instead he defeated sin and death through the cross, “foolishness to Greeks and a stumbling block to Jews.”
King Saul, so threatened by God’s promises to put David on the throne, spends years hunting him down to kill him. Multiple times, even though he has the opportunity to kill Saul, David desists, leaving justice in God’s hands. Same thing with Jesus. The Pharisees, chief priests, scribes, anyone with religious or political power is incredibly threatened by his interpretation of the Law, by his teaching with authority, and by his strange statement that he will destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. (John 2:19) When he raises Lazarus from the dead, that’s the last straw. They start plotting to kill him. Though Jesus speaks out against their hypocrisy, he does not turn to violence or even self-defense.
Life begins at 30
Both Jesus and David begin their official work at age 30. 2 Samuel 5:4 says “David was thirty years old when he began to reign…” and of Jesus we read in Luke 3:23, “he was about thirty years of age when he began his ministry.”
God the Builder
David wants to build God a house and drafts detailed plans for it. However, God says, “I know you want to build me a house, but I really don’t need one—my tent is just fine for now. But I’m going to build you a house. With you, I’m starting an eternal dynasty.” 2 Samuel 7:12-13 is wonderfully confusing. “I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build house for my name and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” On one level, it’s obviously about Solomon, who did indeed reign after David and built the first temple. On another level, it’s about Jesus.
Who says, in Revelation 22:16, “I am the root and the descendent of David, the bright morning star”? You guessed it, Jesus. And what kind of a house is he building? What did he mean by “Destroy this temple and I will rebuild it in three days”? He was referring to body. Paul says “you are the body of Christ” (1 Cor 12:27) and Peter says that those who follow Christ are “living stones, being built up as a spiritual house.” (1 Peter 2:5). The syllogism goes like this: Christ calls his body the temple. Christians are the body of Christ. Therefore, Christians are the new temple or spiritual house. And I believe this is the “house for my name” God tells David his descendent shall build.
But back to God promising to “establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” There is no Davidic king reigning at the moment. Has God forgotten his promise? It’s the usual Biblical problem of “now and not yet”. Hebrews chapter 1 argues, “But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.” (1:8)
On trial before Pilate, Jesus says yes when asked, “Are you the King of the Jews?” To the irritation of the chief priests, the charge Pilate writes up against Jesus, the title affixed above his head in three languges on the cross is “King of the Jews”. (Luke 23, John 19)
Ezekiel 37:24 ties all this together for us, in passage about the redemption of Israel. “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd.” This isn’t talking about a resurrected David but about someone like him, just as John the Baptist is called Elijah. (Matthew 17:12). This is the most important way David foreshadows Jesus, whose throne will be established forever and whose kingdom will not pass away. (Daniel 7:14)
I wonder if our longing for “happily ever after” is grounded in this reality. The Bible says there will be a happy ending when Jesus’ kingdom is finally physically established, a place where “the wolf will lie down with the lamb.” (Isaiah 11) For now, each of us personally can experience the kingdom within us spiritually through faith in Christ.
For a lot of people, the Bible is either art or truth. For me, it's both, and I hope to persuade readers in both camps to see the other perspective.