The Kingdom of Christ in 1 Samuel
David M. VanDrunen
Whether you're serving as a pastor or working full time in a secular field, one thing that I hope we have in common is devotion to the church of Jesus Christ. Preaching recently from 1 Samuel 24 was a helpful reminder to me of the nature of Christ's kingdom as we now experience it in the church. Perhaps a few reflections on this chapter of Scripture may be of encouragement to you as you labor for the church in various ways.
1 Samuel 24 is part of the larger story of Israel under the reign of its first king, Saul. Israel sinned in asking Samuel to appoint for them a king like the kings of the nations all around—which they received in Saul, who was tall and had good weapons and undoubtedly looked impressive at the head of an army. God has indeed appointed kings for the nations all around, and they serve important purposes in the present world (Romans 13:1-7).
But OT Israel was not like the nations all around. They were God's covenant nation, a type of the eternal kingdom. They needed a different kind of king, one who could serve not merely temporal interests but bring in eternal righteousness and peace. In Saul's failure, Israel suffered the consequences of seeking a king like those of the nations all around. But God did not abandon his people, instead sending them David, a different sort of king, one after God's own heart, one who would point the OT people to Christ perhaps in richer ways than any other OT figure.
1 Samuel 24 is a marvelous example of this. Here David finds his fortunes reversed. While being hunted by Saul he suddenly becomes the master of the situation, when Saul relieves himself in the very cave where David and his men were hiding. David's followers told him to strike (as any king of the nations all around would have done), but he refrained (24:6). He hoped for God's vengeance, but he himself would not lift his hand against Saul (24:12).
What a wonderful picture of Christ and his kingdom. Christ himself would be urged to take vengeance upon his enemies by his disciples, yet he refused (Luke 9:54-55). He knew that his calling was to suffer for our salvation, and he endured persecution, crying out to God for vindication without lifting his own hand in vengeance (Isaiah 53:7; Hebrews 5:7). As citizens of a kingdom that serves this sort of king, we are called to love our enemies, turn our cheek to those who wrong us, and leave vengeance to God (Matthew 5:11, 38-48; Romans 12:17-20). And as God brought about victory for David despite his refusal to strike down his enemy, and as God brought about victory through Christ's humble sufferings, so still today he brings victory and salvation through his church, which advances not through the weapons of this world, but through patient obedience to her Lord, with no other weapon than the powerful Word of God.
May each of you prosper as you conduct yourselves in this way in your service to Christ and his church.