David was without doubt one of the greatest kings of Israel. During his reign the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were reunited into one realm (2 Samuel 5:1-5); and his forty years as king marked a sort of Golden Age for the nation that only grew and came into its fullness under his son Solomon. This does not mean, however, that David’s monarchy was entirely without turmoil. Just the opposite is the case. David would see a time in his reign when the entire nation was in rebellion against him.
It was David’s own son that lead the revolt. Through craftiness and flattery Absalom turned the nation from David; “Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (2 Samuel 15:6). Absalom was very effective in his attempt to usurp his father and become king: “the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom” (15:12). By an irony was this traitor, this author of treachery, named Absalom; because the Hebrew name Absalom (אַבְשָׁלֹום) means “father of peace”.
When David realized the rebellion he knew that his time was short. He quickly set his house in order and told his servants, “Arise, and let us flee; for we shall not else escape from Absalom” (2 Samuel 15:14). The departure of the king caused great grief among his loyal subjects; many of them left with the king or came out to mourn and watch his flight from Jerusalem.
David went out of Jerusalem and assembled a small band of loyal followers. Then “the king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed over, toward the way of the wilderness” (2 Samuel 15:23). After crossing the Kidron river king David “went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and wept as he went up” (15:30). When David got to the top of the mountain he worshiped there (15:32).
So far all this seems like just a story from the Bible; a storm in the life of David. But it is a beautiful storm. Events from David’s life take on a new significance when we understand that David was used as an allegorical reference for the Messiah. God inspired three different prophets to symbolically describe Jesus as “David”:
Jeremiah prophesied of a day when Israel would be released from the bondage of his enemies. They would no longer serve their enemies; instead “they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them” (Jeremiah 30:9). Jeremiah was talking about the coming Messiah. Jeremiah could not possibly have been talking about literal David because Jeremiah was not even alive during the reign of actual David.
Ezekiel prophetically referred to the Christ as “David” twice. “Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle. And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it” (Ezekiel 34:22-24).
Ezekiel said again, “And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever” (Ezekiel 37:24-25). Notice that both times Ezekiel uses future descriptions: “will” and “shall”. Ezekiel says that David “shall be their prince for ever”. Ezekiel is not talking about the historic king David of Israel’s past: he is looking forward to something future, something eternal.
Hosea likewise prophesied of a day when Israel’s worship would be restored. “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days” (Hosea 3:8-9). Again, Hosea could not possibly have been talking about literal David. Hosea’s prophetic ministry did not start until over 250 after king David’s death! This prophecy is an obvious reference to the Messiah. Notice how he says that these things would happen “in the latter days”.
With this in mind think again about this story from David’s life. The king was dealing with a nation that was in rebellion against him, trying to kill him. He left Jerusalem and assembled a small group of loyal followers. With this group he crossed the Kidron river and climbed the Mount of Olives. Once at the top he worshiped God. The amazing thing is that all of these events in the life of literal David are played out in the life of symbolic David, Jesus.
When Jesus came to this earth he came to a kingdom that was in rebellion against him. Jesus was the King of Israel that came in the name of the Lord (John 12:13); but even still, he “came unto his own, and his own received him not” (1:11). David had a small band of loyal followers that were not part of the rebellion; and so did Jesus in his disciples. But rather than fight against the rebellion like the first David, Jesus submitted to it; he told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36). The first rebellion attempted to kill their king; the second rebellion succeeded.
Right before the crucifixion Jesus assembled a small band of loyal followers, his disciples, and left Jerusalem. After leaving the city he “went forth with his disciples over the book Cedron” (John 18:1). Cedron is an alternate spelling for Kidron. When he had crossed the Kidron river he “went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives” (Luke 22:39) where he prayed with his disciples. The events of Jesus’ life as he prepared to leave earth directly harmonize with the events of his archetypal forefather David has he prepared to leave Jerusalem. The storm from David’s life beautifully weaves itself through the life of the Messiah that David symbolized.
In conclusion, this parallel is made all the more beautiful by a fact that should be ever present in the mind of Christians. David had to go away from Jerusalem, it is true. But there came a day when David had returned to Jerusalem in power, having his enemies defeated. The king did leave his followers; but the king came back!
May we always remember that our King Jesus is coming back! It is true that the world is in rebellion against him now; it is true that he has left us for a time now. But as surely as David left, he returned in victory. And as sure as Jesus ascended into heaven, he will return a second time in victory and in power! May we be like David’s faithful servants who loyally waited his return to Jerusalem; may we always be watching for our king to come back!