Editor’s Note: This is an edited version of the recorded Bible study under this title at Truthtellers.org.
As Jesus suffered abuse and shame to empower our salvation, Christians are obligated to bear His cross with Him and suffer reproach to help redeem others. Great saints who preceded Christ by many centuries were required, sometimes by strange fasts and hardships, to share Christ’s sorrows and humiliation. Many of these holy men experienced defilement and shame, just as our Savior “became sin who knew no sin.”
Long before God the Father looked away from a defiled Christ on the Cross, Ezekiel was commanded by God to lie on his right and left sides for years, cooking meager rations with dried cow manure to help atone for the great sins of Israel and Judah.
Isaiah, oracle of some of the most transcendently beautiful sacred writing known to man, was commanded to walk naked and barefoot for three years as a sign to the wicked Egyptians that they would be led into Assyrian captivity, naked and barefoot—because of their sin.
But the most complete prefigurement of the Messiah was King David. David’s life dramatically portrays the two very different sides of Jesus Christ.
First, He is the all wise, righteous God, Creator of Heaven and earth—a just and wise ruler who is also keenly aware of the strategies of Satan. No demon can surprise Jesus. With hundreds of millions of angelic warriors, He opposes evil in ceaseless spiritual warfare. Jesus will one day return as the righteous Judge to "rule with a rod of iron" for 1000 years.
But Christ is also the innocent, even naive Lamb, predestined from past eternity to be guilelessly led to slaughter. “Slain from the foundation of the world,” the Lamb of God is so inoffensive and defenseless that He is silent even at His own execution.
The life of David reveals these two polarities: the righteous warrior king and the gentle lamb who turns the other cheek. David exhibited remarkable mercy to his enemies. Yet, from his early youth, he was courageous, even kingly. Like our Warrior Shepherd, Jesus, he killed a lion and a bear to defend his flock. Confidence in God won from these experiences emboldened him to defy Goliath, arrogant champion of the Philistines. He trusted entirely in God's power and charged onto the field of battle, fearless against impossible odds. David was like Jesus, whose actions were authorized and empowered entirely by what the Father revealed to Him.
Innocent while persecuted by King Saul, David prefigures Jesus’ doctrine of “turning the other cheek,” “blessing those who persecute you.” Napping in a cave occupied by David and his men, Saul was easy prey for David.Yet David, imbued with respect for the sanctity of divinely anointed, though imperfect human leadership, left him alone. David refused the easy deliverance which could have been his, just as Jesus chose not to employ the legions of angels He could have marshaled to deliver Him from the Jews. He instead submitted to a divine plan that allowed the evil and persecutive rulers of Israel, like Saul, to persecute and even kill Him. In the same way, David declined the opportunity to return evil for evil when he penetrated Saul’s encampment late at night and took Saul’s water jug, heaping coals of fire on his enemy by his mercy. The Mosaic Law said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," yet David could not more perfectly prefigure a doctrine of passive resistance to evil which only arrived for the Jews 1000 years later with Jesus.
Rejected by his own Jewish people, David found refuge among Gentiles. In this way, he anticipated Christ who was rejected by most Jews but brought salvation to Gentiles.
David also prefigured Jesus by being the object of withering abuse by his enemies. As a result of his lamb-like willingness to forgive his murderous son Absalom, David found himself under ferocious attack, running for his life. A vile blasphemer named Shimei came after David, repeatedly abusing him with the most debasing taunts. David’s warriors wanted to take off his head, but David allowed Shimei to continue, as did Christ, taunted and abused by the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers. Both David and Jesus knew they had an intercessory ordeal to undergo which could not be ended until God said so. Jesus is described as so loving a world in rebellion to Him that He was willing to die to facilitate their redemption.
Similarly, after Absalom is finally executed by Joab, we see an astonishing willingness to forgive as David weeps,“My son, Absalom,my son, my son. Absalom, would God I had died for thee!" How could David forgive such a deadly enemy? Joab told David that unless he stopped mourning the death of Absalom all his faithful followers would desert by the next day. Yet such love is remarkably similar to the incredible love of the Lamb of God who died for the salvation of a humanity that largely rejects Him and would prefer He didn’t exist! “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Finally, we'll consider David’s numbering of the people in II Samuel 18:33—an admittedly challenging passage. David and his supporters returned victorious from defeating Absalom and his fellow rebels. Having regained his throne, King David wants to reunite the nation. Yet God is furious at what the majority have done. II Sam. 24:1 says God, in His anger, motivated David to commit an unrighteous act—counting his armies—as an occasion to punish the Israelites. This was blatantly against God’s law. God was the strength and deliverer of the Jews, not human power.
I Chronicles 21:1, referring to the same incident, says Satan provoked David to number the people. Do these passages contradict each other? No. They are both true.
Why did both God and Satan cause David to transgress and at this time "become sin who knew no sin?" Operating according to the "collective punishment" ethic of the Old Testament, i.e., that the people could be judged for the transgression of a ruler, God incited David to transgress as a pretext for punishing the unrepentant people. Satan wanted to cause anguish to David for the sheer pleasure of seeing his enemy innocently suffer.
God gave no comfort to David, in effect turning His back as He did to Christ on the cross. Not realizing his mind had been invaded by God and Satan and that he was in no way responsible for the obsession to number the people, David took full blame, repented, and sacrificed to the Lord. But God got what He wanted, justice on the rebels, killing 70,000 men (I Chron. 21:14). So did Satan, seeing David suffer, just as he would delight to incite the Jews and Romans to crucify Jesus. Satan knows he will someday have to pay dearly in the lake of fire for his rebellion against the Almighty, but the short-term pleasure of seeing Jesus, and David, suffer was too delicious to pass up.
In summary, this story reveals how God required David to mimic, in the most convoluted way and against His law, the incredible inversion of divine justice that allowed Jesus, the holiest Being who exists, to become sin for our sakes.
In considering these strange examples of intercession and identification with Christ centuries before He came, we are presented with two choices: We can dismiss as theological nonsense the Bible's requirement that believers both before and after Christ identify with His shame.We can choose to believe that we have the ability to please God (if He exists) by doing good things.
Or we can accept God’s testimony that His ways and thoughts are higher than ours. Part of this acceptance has to do with God's way of salvation.
Are we willing to accept God’s right to make a way of salvation by faith alone?
History has shown that those who scorn God’s mysterious way and prefer good works end up like the Pharisees, filled with pride and failing to please God. When we give God the benefit of the doubt and step out in raw faith, trusting Him to hold us up, an amazing thing happens. The Holy Spirit comes to us, according to Jesus’ promise, and gives inner peace and joy not of this world. It passes understanding because it comes from a God who has the right to baffle us.
After all, He exists from eternal past time and created the universe out of nothing. Shouldn’t we expect Him to be mysterious? Actually, Jesus tells the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 66:2 that, although He created the universe from nothing, as a God of love His greatest pleasure is when each of us comes to Him and nestles in His arms, trusting Him as a little child.
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