Summary: We Christians believe that Jesus is our perfect King and Messiah, all other kings were and are imperfect sinners.
Christ the King Sunday Yr B, 22/11/2009
Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &
Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s
South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta
“The most faithful King”
The story is told of Prince Philip who was visiting an Australian university, where he was introduced to a couple identified as “Mr and Dr Robinson.” The husband explained, “My wife is a doctor of philosophy. She is much more important than I.” Prince Philip sympathetically replied, “Ah, yes. We have that trouble in our family, too.”
In today’s first lesson we learn of King David’s troubles too. The psalm also speaks about it—it begins with a prayer likely prayed by David’s son, Solomon at the time of the dedication of the temple. In the opening verse, the psalmist prays: “O LORD, remember in David’s favour all the hardships he endured.” The reference to hardships here most likely refers to his troubles over wanting a permanent home for the ark of the covenant. Even though David tried his best to build a temple for the ark, the LORD did not let him—he was upstaged by his son Solomon, who accomplished that building project.
The psalm takes a single incident out of the past, the history of the ark of the covenant, and reminisces over it: “Remember how we got the news in Ephrathah—which is another name of Bethlehem, David’s city—learned all about it at Jaar Meadows? This was Kiriath-jearim, where the ark had been kept from Samuel’s time until David became king in Jerusalem. We shouted, ‘Let’s go to the shrine dedication! Let’s worship at God’s own footstool!’ Up, GOD, enjoy your new place of quiet repose, you and your mighty covenant ark.”
The ark of the covenant was a box approximately forty-five inches long, twenty-seven inches broad and twenty-seven inches deep, constructed of wood and covered with gold. Its lid of solid gold was called the mercy seat. Two cherubim, angel-like figures at either end, framed the space around the central mercy seat from which God’s word was heard. It had been made under the supervision of Moses (Ex 25:10-22) and was a symbol of the presence of God among his people. The ark had accompanied Israel from Sinai, through the wilderness wanderings, and had been kept at Shiloh from the time of the conquest. In a battle the ark had been captured by the enemy Philistines and was a trophy of war displayed in the Philistine cities until it became a problem to them (the story is told in 1 Samuel 4-7) and was returned to Israel, to the village of Kiriath-jearim (7:1-2), where it rested until David came to get it and place it in honour in Jerusalem, where it later became enshrined in Solomon’s temple.1 However, the ark, even though it was a symbol of God’s presence among the Israelites, was not God himself. The Israelites had to learn the hard way that you cannot put God in a box; nor can you limit God’s presence to one particular place on earth. God is God over heaven and earth. God was not pleased with the Israelites, Solomon’s temple was destroyed, the Israelites were taken into exile, and the ark then disappeared into the mists of history.
As we continue with our psalm, there is a theme in verses eleven and twelve of a covenant that God had made with David: “The LORD swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back; “One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne.” Sure enough God kept that covenant, by allowing Solomon to ascend to the throne, and allowing him to build the Jerusalem temple. In many respects, Solomon’s success and fame succeeded that of David’s. However, there is a second part to God’s covenant, which is spelled out in verse twelve. In verse twelve, the covenant becomes a conditional one—which means that if David’s dynasty was to continue and be blessed by the LORD, then there was a certain duty, a certain condition that the kings would have to honour. God places the following condition on the covenant: “If your sons keep my covenant and my decrees that I shall teach them, their sons also, forevermore, shall sit on your throne.” Well, we all know what happened with that conditional covenant. The Davidic dynasty did not last. David’s offspring, including Solomon, did not keep God’s covenant and decrees—all of them fell away from the ways of the LORD, into very serious sins. King after king who succeeded David committed brutal acts of sin. The history of the Davidic dynasty is full of evil plots and power-plays; much violence and blood was shed; like so many other royal dynasties of the world. I’m sure all of this dirty politicking must have broken God’s heart. Here were the makings of a holy people, blessed by God to rule under a holy king, in a holy place—Jerusalem. Yet, Jerusalem, which was supposed to be “the” model city of peace for the rest of the world, became the exact opposite. Jerusalem, the dwelling place of God, over the centuries has been anything but a city of peace. The pages of Jerusalem’s history are filled with conflicts, strife, destruction, divisions, sufferings, and the shedding of much blood. So, no, this conditional covenant of a Davidic dynasty blessed by God “forevermore” has not been fulfilled.