King David as the typical Believer

We often, and rightly, focus on King David as a type of Christ. However, if that’s the only typology we see in him then we risk a shallow, surface reading of the Old Testament that misses a lot of helpful pastoral teaching.

Typology is a method within Biblical Theology which identifies people, events and objects in the Old Testament and traces through how they foreshadow people and events in the New Testament. The Old Testament foreshadow is referred to as the type and the New Testament person/event as the anti-type.

So, in the case of David, we see him as God’s chosen and anointed king who points to Jesus as the true and perfect king. David is flawed, sinful, imperfect and those flaws remind us that in him we are still looking forward to the great fulfilment.

David provides us with a type of Christ because he is a just and wise king who delivers his people from their enemies.  This is seen when David fights the enemy, Goliath. We are meant to read that story, not seeing ourselves as being a bit like David facing our giants but like the Israelite army watching on as their hero fights for them and wins.[1] David is like Christ when he faces rejection, mocking and exile in 2 Samuel. Of course, in that case, he was the flawed king who experienced suffering as a consequence of his own sin but in so doing he points us to Jesus as the one who bore the exile of Golgotha and the mockery of religious leaders and Roman guards, “In our place condemned he stood.”

But David is also the typical believer. When teaching the Union GDip module on Wisdom literature, Steffen Jenkins points out that throughout the Psalms and Proverbs, we are pointed towards the fate of the righteous who often must endure suffering, hardship, mockery, defeat and disappointment and yet are those who are vindicated by God, liberated, and declared blessed. We see this right at the start of the book when we are introduced to the Blessed or Happy Man as the one who avoids sin and temptation, choosing instead to delight in God’s Law. Psalm 1 of course does point us forward to Jesus as the truly righteous and therefore blessed man but it also describes the way of the righteous as a people. So, as Steffen explained to our Learning Community, there is a sense in which we read the description of the Righteous in the Wisdom Literature and think “If this is true of ‘righteous’ people then even more so of Jesus.

But if David is not only pointing to Christ in his own life and actions but also providing an example for us, it means that there are lessons we can learn about living our daily lives as believers. These lessons include:

–          The importance of trust and dependence on the Lord

–          The reality of spiritual warfare and specifically the importance of mortifying (putting to death) sinful desires

–          The danger of temptation

–          The place of repentance

–          The ongoing consequences of sinful behaviour

–          Responding to unjust and unprovoked insult and attack

–          Learning to accept and even to love God’s loving discipline towards his children.

 

Remembering that David as a righteous man is a typical believer also points us towards the source of David’s righteousness. David, just like another typical believer, Abraham is not made righteous by works. Rather, he receives justification by faith.

As Paul puts it

When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. “But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners. David also spoke of this when he described the happiness of those who are declared righteous without working for it:

Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sins are put out of sight.
Yes, what joy for those
whose record the Lord has cleared of sin.’”[2]

 

The story of 1 and 2 Samuel is rich because it is about real life and so is never one-dimensional. It does not simply offer us cartoon heroes or pantomime villains but real people, sinners and sinned against, faithless fools and faithful believers, culprits and victims. In so doing it reminds us that we were once faithless fools, that we were both helpless in our sin and culprits in our enmity against God. We deserved to be crushed by his victory and yet he rescued us and reconciled us. He forgave and restored. We see that as believers we seek to be faithful followers who trust and obey but that we often fail and fall, we act as culprits, we hurt and harm and need to be challenged, disciplined and corrected. We also are at times sufferers, victims of the sin of others, living in a messy, fallen world who need to know God’s love, comfort and healing.

Currently at Bearwood Chapel, we are working our way through 2 Samuel. It is exciting and encouraging as we do both to be continuously pointed forwards to Christ our saviour and king but also to see in David’s life a flawed, imperfect man but also a man who trusted God’s promises and learnt to live humbly and obediently as a son of the King of Kings.

[1] One of the most memorable sermons I heard in Oak Hill Chapel was Glen Scrivener making this very point

[2] Romans 4:4-8.

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