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Oct 10 1920


At the apex of Hebrew national history stands David, the King. He has been called "the Shepherd King;" but he might better, perhaps, be called "the Fighting King." Not only did his reign mark the height of Israel's military power among her neighbors, but his whole life was a battle.

He spent his boyhood defending his father's sheep from the attacks of lions and bears (I Samuel 17:34). His first public appearance was in the single combat with the giant Goliath (I Samuel 17). The character-setting years of early manhood were employed in leading the armies of King Saul, and when the quick but unappeasable jealousy of Saul made David an outlaw, in commanding a difficult band of fellow outlaws, who constituted themselves a sort of guerrilla police, where no other protection existed. When this Hebrew Robin Hood became king, his reign was crowded with campaigns. And even the peace of old age was disturbed by the heart-breaking armed rebellion of his beloved son, Absalom.

In all these struggles he was singularly successful.. Yet his greatest victories were the victories which he gained over himself. His self-restraint toward King Saul of itself makes him worthy to be regarded as a type of Him who taught that equality with God was not a thing to be snatched (Philippians 2:6), but chose instead to bear the Cross before he wore the Crown.

David had already been anointed to take Saul's place on the throne, and Saul was determined to hunt him down and kill him. Yet even on those two occasions when David had his enemy completely in his power, he refused to reach out his hand to grab a bloody crown. Surely here was a rare chivalry, and a rare confidence in the good faith of God to redeem His promises.

An even nobler instance of this self-restraint is seen many years later, when the heart-broken old king is fleeing from the rebellion of his son Absalom. Shimei, a man of the house of Saul, comes out and curses David and casts stones and dirt at him Abishai, the same ready-tongued and ready-handed tempter who in the old outlaw days had urged David to let him slay the sleeping Saul, is still at his elbow, and cries out, "Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head." But David replies, "Let him alone.... It may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day (II Samuel 15:5).

Living in an age of unrestrained frightfulness in war, he is terrible in his onslaughts, but never vindictive in his triumphs: The oriental despot is the symbol of ruthless, tyrannical self indulgence. Yet, King David never but once uses his power for selfish purposes. They are poor blind moles, grubbing in dirt, with a nose only for nastiness, who see nothing in David's life-story but his sin with Bathsheba against, Uriah

No one would deny that this is a hideous and a hateful blot upon his name. But it is only fair to him to, remember, the humility with which the King accepts the rebuke of the prophet Nathan; and the genuineness of his repentance is evidenced by the sincerity of that pearl of penitential prayers the fifty-first Psalm.

And this brings us to that in David which has been the eternal inspiration of those who fight for righteousness ever since. It is the utter openness of his relations with God, and the sheer reality of his reliance upon Him. This was the substance and heart of that boyish boast against Goliath; and it, was the secret and strength of the long life that followed, as we see it in psalm and story:

Thou comest to me with a sword and with a spear and with a shield: but .1 come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; that all the earth may know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear, for the battle is the Lord's, and He will give you into our hands" (I Samuel 17:45).

It is such faith in God as this that is the main munition of every man who fights with evil either in the form of Teuton or of inward tempter.

In those days before the flood of modern juvenile fiction, what a Godsend to hero-loving boys must have been that story of David and Goliath. For the boy Jesus it had the additional interest that He was Himself descended from the royal hero.

How notable, then, was the occasion, when this humble Prince of the House of David, having passed his twelfth birthday, was privileged for the first time to join his parents in their yearly Pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The, last stronghold of the enemy in the [one line missing] captured it, and made it the first national capital of a united Israel, and the great central shrine of Israel's God.

Who can look without emotion upon that old grey battle-beaten fortress of the Jebusites, which is still the world's most precious shrine? Twenty sieges and assaults of the utmost severity have battered at her walls and brought untold misery upon her inhabitants. Two world-wide religions have made her their battleground, hurling their farthest kings against her walls and shedding upon her dust the tears and the blood of millions of their people.

And yet the most awful contest she has known has been the struggle between the spirit of God and the spirit of man. Nowhere else has it been waged so consciously and so articulately; and here it reached its crisis in Gethsemane and its climax upon the Cross.

Who can fathom the feelings of the boy Jesus as he looked for the first time upon the City of David, and saw towring above its walls the glittering Temple with its gilded roofs and marble colonnades? What Paris would mean to a descendent of the Bourbons, what Edinburgh would mean to one of the house of Stuart -- all this and much more Jerusalem would mean to this scion of a royal house to whose founder had been given the prophetic promise:

"Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee: thy throne shall be established forever."

That the impression made at this time was a very deep one is shown by the new sense of His Divine Being and Mission expressed in those memorable words which so amazed His parents: "Wise ye not that I must be about my Father's business?"

Here, in the only words which break the silence of thirty years, we at once sense the attitude of mind that marks the soldier -- the recognition of a Cause outside himself that he is bound to serve.

That is what separates the soldier from the bandit. The bandit, whether he be the rough-handed scourge of the lonely road in a lawless land, or the manicured manipulator of stocks in Wall Street, serves himself and grabs for himself. The soldier serves a leader and gives himself to a cause.

With the first words that He utters, Jesus shows himself to be of the soldier class and not of the bandit breed:

"Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?"

After uttering these words, the boy Jesus shows another characteristic of the born soldier -- readiness to obey his immediate superior. When his parents came for him he yields to them at once; and we read that "He went down with them, and was subject unto them." Whatever cisions He had of holding High Command in the future, He for the time being takes His place as a private in the ranks, and puts Himself under the orders of the non-commissioned officers of the home post.

1 The Table of contents of Calvin's book can be found with letter W-MCP2-3b.035.

For chapter 1, see Box 04-028.

For chapter 3, see Box 04-030.

For chapter 4, see Box 04-031.

For chapter 5, see Box 04-031.

For chapter 6, see Box 04-033.

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Copyright 2002 Whitehern Historic House and Garden
The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
Please direct questions and comments to Mary Anderson, Ph.D.

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