King David, the shepherd king

King David, the shepherd king

9th December

Remember the gospel that I preach: Jesus Christ, a descendant of David, was raised from the dead.” (2 Timothy 2:8)

King David was the shepherd boy and musician who became one of Israel’s greatest kings. After defeating Goliath on the battlefield in the service of King Saul, he went on to displace Saul as the chosen ruler of Israel. Upon coming to the throne, he made Jerusalem the new capital of his kingdom and built a royal palace in the city. He was also inspired by God to write many of the poems we call the Psalms.

Due to his faithfulness, God promised King David that his royal family line would last forever, saying: “And when it is time for you to be with your ancestors, I will designate as your heir one of your sons to succeed you, and I shall establish his kingdom forever… your descendants and your kingdom will stand firm forever before me, and your throne shall endure forever.” (2 Samuel 7:12,16) This promise was on condition that his descendants remained faithful to God (Psalm 132:11-12).

The first part of this promise came true when his son, Solomon, succeeded him as king of Israel. However, since David’s later descendants did not keep God’s law, the monarchy died out. The second part of the promise, of an everlasting kingdom, was left unfulfilled. This led the people to wait expectantly for the arrival of a faithful king, descended from David, who would re-establish the kingdom and fulfil the promise. This man would be called the Messiah, or Christ.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary and announced that she was pregnant with the Christ Child, he signalled that her Son would fulfil this great promise, saying: “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32-33)

This marouflaged painting of King David is found on the sanctuary ceiling of English Martyrs, in St-Leonards-on-Sea. It was created by the Gothic Revivalist Nathaniel Westlake between 1908-1911 and is part of a wider scheme of Old Testament figures who spoke of the life of Christ. In this example, David is pictured – as is customary – with a harp. The scroll quotes Psalm 45:3, which is part of a royal wedding song that is understood in the New Testament to refer to Christ (Psalm 45:3,7 cf Hebrews 1:8).

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