“The Son of David Goes Forth to War for You” Invocavit 2024

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18. February 2024
1 Sam. 17:40-51; Matthew 4:1-11

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. 

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

David goes off to war to defeat the evil giant who opposed and threatened God’s people. The Son of David goes off to war with the Evil One, who tempts and assaults God’s people night and day. Two kings fighting to win and defend God’s people. Two men after God’s own heart, that is, doing the Father’s will. Goliath, the Philistine of Gath, came out with a sword and taunts, striking fear and terror. David, the shepherd boy from Bethlehem, “ruddy and good-looking,” ran out against Him with God’s name and five smooth stones. All the might of God’s enemies comes unraveled in Israel’s Messiah king, David. 

And then there is also the greater, David’s son yet David’s Lord. He is like His father, David, but is also quite unlike Him. Because He is also David’s God and king, eternal and unbegotten, he is the king to whom every king on earth bows the knee. And the foes that David’s son and David’s Lord defeats are greater than a terrible giant of the Philistines. He fights for you against the Deceiver, the enticements of the world, and even the sin that dwells in your nature. His weapons are His Word and His suffering, death, and burial. He was not like David before Him, but as Isaiah foretold, “His visage was marred more than any man, And His form more than the sons of men” (Is 52:14). And yet, in a moment of utter weakness and complete defeat, all the might of the Devil, world, and our flesh comes unraveled. The greatest victory is won through the most terrible defeat. God’s Son is dead. 

You recall that Israel had no king before David’s predecessor, Saul. They demanded one despite the prophet Samuel’s protest:

11 And [Samuel] said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. 12 He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. 14 And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. 16 And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. 18 And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.” 19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No, but we will have a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 21 And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he repeated them in the hearing of the Lord. 22 So the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed their voice, and make them a king.” (1 Sam 8:11-22).

And as you know, Saul was exactly what the prophet foretold. The people got exactly what they bargained for. Saul set the mold for what we expect from earthly rulers. He was anointed, proclaimed king, and coronated after his first victory. And at His coronation, Samuel warned the people that because they asked and God gave them this man, they were to serve King Saul as if he were God Himself. He reminds them that they had no need of a king because the LORD was their king. God saved them from the land of Egypt by the hand of Moses and Aaron. The LORD sent the judges Gideon, Barak, Jephthah, and Samuel to deliver them out of their enemies on every side. But they longed to mimic the Ammonites and have a king, despite “the LORD your God was your king.” 

In effect, God said, “You don’t need a king. You don’t even know what you are asking for. So I will give you what you want and teach you the futility of it. Even the best king you ever would know, David, had a heart inclined to all evils. But as you have rejected me as king, for now, I will give you learn and know their failure, and when the fullness of time comes, I will restore you to my kingdom through My Son.” 

And so, immediately after his crowning ceremony, Saul offered unlawful sacrifice. He doubted God’s Word of command and promise. He forced the soldiers into an ungodly oath. Israel’s sons were constantly at war and dying. Saul defies God’s direction and spares the Amalekite king and what was devoted to death. And after all this, the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments” (1 Sam 15:10). The damage is done. Despite Saul’s repentance, the kingdom is torn from him and given to another. 

Enter David, son of Jesse, his anointing as the future king, and the defeat of Goliath. Things continue to go sideways with all the intrigue of kings, idolatry, sorcery, and finally, the terrible king Saul falling on his sword (1 Sam 31). “How the mighty have fallen, And the weapons of war perished!” (2 Sam 1:27). I wish we could say David was everything the king we hoped for. The evidence was that He was more faithful than Saul. And yet, many false indulgences mar his kingship, too. With David’s coronation, Israel and Judah went into civil war. After the death of many kinsmen, finally, after Jerusalem is conquered and another battle with the Philistines, David establishes the sign of God’s presence, the Ark of the Covenant, in the holy city. And with the Ark, God gives us the covenant promise that matters for today:

“When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. 15 But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Sam 7:12-16)

That promise is now fulfilled for you in Jesus, son of God and son of David. “His is no earthly kingdom; it comes from heaven above. His rule is peace and freedom, and justice, truth, and love.” And yet, God gave us the kings of old to teach us who He is and who He is not. He is born of David’s lineage. He is proclaimed king by the Magi, who come from afar. His rule is threatened by the tyrant King Herod. He is faithful to His God in completing all the Law from His infancy on our behalf. He is anointed to be king by His baptism in the Jordan. He wages war against the Devil in the wilderness. He fights against unbelief, sickness, and death in His ministry. He is acclaimed king as He rode into Jerusalem, palm branches strewn before Him. But His rule is not with sword and clubs, military might or political intrigue. He reigns and rules with His Word and by the sacrifice of love. And He suffers insult and mockery and shame for us. Finally, He is crucified, dies, and is buried, “who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:25). And now He reigns for you as your King of kings and Lord of lords in His holy church, the kingdom of God. In this, His kingdom, you receive far more than any of David’s royal subjects. Your king Jesus gives you complete forgiveness of all your sins, resurrection of your mortal bodies, and to live forever in His kingdom. 

The Son of David goes off to war with the Evil One, who tempts and assaults God’s people night and day. He fights to win and defend you, God’s people. Jesus is a man after God’s own heart, that is, doing the Father’s will. All the might of God’s enemies comes unraveled in Israel’s eternal Messiah king, Jesus. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin