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No ordinary fiefdom

King David

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Posted on: 
19 Aug 2011
No ordinary fiefdom

As ancient Israel’s last Judge, there are some important lessons from the life and ministry of Samuel which are extremely relevant today as world leaders take their respective stands regarding the current heated battle over the restored nation of Israel.

The prophet Samuel is a remarkable biblical figure who oversaw Israel’s transition from a council of elders or “judges” to a kingdom ruled by a hereditary monarch. Until then, wise and anointed leaders were entrusted with overseeing the nation, which was set apart and “not reckoned among the nations,” according to Numbers 23:9. This was because God Himself was their King! Beginning with Moses, God had provided for the Israelites in the wilderness and led them into the Land of Canaan through Judges who could hear His voice.

This system of governance ‘peaked’ under Samuel, who presided over an era when Israel had almost possessed the land, were prevailing over the Philistines and other enemies, enjoyed harmony in the ranks, and recognized the prophetic voice to the nation. But as the prophet grew old and his sons lapsed into corruption, the people cried out for a king, like the surrounding nations. Primarily, they cried out for a commander to lead them into battle.

Surprisingly, God instructed Samuel to “heed the voice of the people, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.” (1 Samuel 8:7)  Yet the prophet must also give the Israelites a stern warning of the abuses they will suffer under self-indulgent kings. And they are immediately given a merciless example in the very flawed character of King Saul.

Now I believe Israel was destined to transition to a kingship, when the time and personalities were right. The prophet Balaam has foretold that, “His [Israel’s] king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted.” (Numbers 24:7)

Israel’s lack of a king is also presented as undesirable in the account of an internal war against the Benjamites for raping a woman to death. This sordid tale concludes with the words: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)

But more importantly, a kingly line was to prove necessary in order to pave the way for the promised Messiah – a coming Prophet, Priest and King all wrapped into one. The emergence of David as Saul’s successor was to provide a proto-type of this future Messiah. Indeed, King David’s reign remains the pinnacle of the ancient commonwealth of Israel, and the model to which many Jews still aspire today in their national life.

David was naturally gifted with skills and positive character traits which suited him well for this role. But he also was able to quickly learn vital lessons from the mistakes of Saul. There are too many to mention here, but one was that being king of Israel is not like being the king of any other nation. This was not his personal fiefdom, where the people would be subject to his every whim and fancy.

We see this at play in David’s decision to pour out the water from the well of Bethlehem which his most valiant men had risked their lives to collect just so he could satisfy an old craving from his youth (2 Samuel 23).

No, Israel was different from other nations! It was set apart! God’s “special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 7:6)

And the king of this people had to realize that, which we see David do when receiving the promise of the Messianic line: “who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people…” (2 Samuel 7:23)

Today, the restored nation of Israel is internally in great need of such leadership. David was also flawed and so we should not expect perfection. But, oh, to have leaders willing to pour themselves out of all personal ambition and pride for the sake of steering Israel towards its prophetic destiny in God.

Externally, the world is in great need of leadership that also recognizes Israel is different, set apart; that this is no ordinary fiefdom which the world can kick around according to its whims and fancies.

Parsons is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem;


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