Can you remember your first day of work? I sure can’t. For any job, ever. Not even the one I have now. If I think hard enough, I can remember a government position or two that entailed safety briefings, sensitivity training, that sort of thing—but beyond that I honestly can’t dredge up a single memory of my first day on any job. Maybe I’m unusual that way (among others), but I can’t help but wonder if it has something to do with the fact that usually, our first days on the job aren’t nearly as memorable as the ones that come after. The ones where you already “know the ropes,” can feel like you’re being productive, that sort of thing.
In 2 Samuel 5, we find David experiencing his “first day on the job,” so to speak. He’s finally anointed king (for the third time, mind you—cf. 1 Samuel 16; 2 Sam 2:1-4), establishing the city of Jerusalem (meaning “foundation of peace”) as the capital of Israel:
Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh. 2 In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the Lord said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’” 3 So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. 4 David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. 5 At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.
6 And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, “You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off”—thinking, “David cannot come in here.” 7 Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David. 8 And David said on that day, “Whoever would strike the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack ‘the lame and the blind,’ who are hated by David’s soul.” Therefore it is said, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.” 9 And David lived in the stronghold and called it the city of David. And David built the city all around from the Millo inward. 10 And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.
Notice two things: first, the strong emphasis on “shepherding” imagery—which was actually a common way of describing kingship in the ancient world (Egyptian Pharaohs, for example, were often depicted in art holding shepherds’ crooks). Secondly, David despised “the lame and the blind.” We rightly cringe at this sort of treatment—and rightly so. David was God’s chosen king, but some of his practices reflected the primitive culture of his day more than the will of God. Take his family, for instance:
11 And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, also carpenters and masons who built David a house. 12 And David knew that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.
13 And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron, and more sons and daughters were born to David. 14 And these are the names of those who were born to him in Jerusalem: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, 15 Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, 16 Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet.
The total number of David’s “concubines and wives” is unknown, though in ancient times it was customary to “inherit” the concubines of one’s predecessor. Not everything that David does represents things that God allows. Which means if God blesses David at all, it says more about God’s character than David’s. We see these blessings in David’s military advancement. The war against the Philistines was certainly a lengthy one, but the text highlights two key victories:
17 When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. But David heard of it and went down to the stronghold. 18 Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim.19 And David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?” And the Lord said to David, “Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand.” 20 And David came to Baal-perazim, and David defeated them there. And he said, “The Lord has broken through my enemies before me like a breaking flood.” Therefore the name of that place is called Baal-perazim. 21 And the Philistines left their idols there, and David and his men carried them away.
22 And the Philistines came up yet again and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim. 23 And when David inquired of the Lord, he said, “You shall not go up; go around to their rear, and come against them opposite the balsam trees. 24 And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then rouse yourself, for then the Lord has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines.” 25 And David did as the Lord commanded him, and struck down the Philistines from Geba to Gezer.
David’s early career was therefore something of a mixed bag. We rightly honor him as God’s chosen servant, but we nonetheless see reasons why we should look forward to a true, better King in Jesus. In his commentary on 1-2 Samuel, Eugene Peterson observes the way that the life and ministry of Jesus reflects—and improves upon—the kingly role of David:
“David and Jesus both enter Jerusalem to establish the rule of God; they both clear the place of those who defile it; but the fate of the ‘blind and lame’ is turned around…When David enters the city of Jerusaelm as the new king of Israel to establish a capital for his kingly rule, clearing the place of the pagan Jebusites, the blind and lame are referred to as ‘those whom David hates.’ When Jesus, a thousand years later, enters the same city, acclaimed as both king and Son of David, he clears the area of all who defiled the holy place with exploitive practices. His first act, after the cleanup, is to heal ‘the blind and the lame’ (Matthew 21:14).” (Eugene H. Peterson, First and Second Samuel, p. 158-9)
Today’s news cycle is dominated by tragedy and scandal. Our celebrities and artists fare no better. In a world where all of our heroes are failures, fiction, or ghosts, who is there to have confidence in? The answer has to be Jesus, for who else can serve with His consistent level of integrity, His love, or His mercy?
And if Jesus is my true King, then it means that my allegiance to His throne surpasses—nay, overthrows—whatever allegiance I may have to my own heart. By following this King, I have victory not over political adversaries, but the adversaries of sin and death. And that changes everything, because now I have a whole new identity as a member of God’s kingdom.