For David, for Jesus, and for us, the cross comes before the crown.
It was a meteoric rise. David had been a lowly shepherd boy, tending his father’s sheep and not even considered worth inviting to an important lunch. But then everything changed.
From rags to riches to rags
Young David was called from the sheep and then anointed future king by the prestigious prophet Samuel. Saul, the present king, suffered and needed a musician to soothe his spirit. He found David and invited him into his service.
When David heard the boasts of the Philistine giant, Goliath, he responded. With five smooth stones he faced down the giant and killed him. King Saul rewarded him richly. He was cheered by men, women, and children alike as a hero. Wow! It must have been overwhelming for David.
What happened next? The unexpected. King Saul became murderously jealous, fearful, and paranoid of David. Saul was so overcome by rage that he hurled his spear at David. David had to flee the city as the number one target on Saul’s most wanted list. Anybody who helped or harbored the fugitive was dealt with brutally and savagely.
To keep himself safe, David hid among the Philistines, Israel’s sworn enemy. He pretended to be a traitor gone mad to avoid detection by King Saul or death by the Philistines. He became the leader of a ragtag army of renegades. It must have been lonely. And scary. When he had the chance, not once but twice, to kill Saul, David refrained. He would not rebel against the Lord’s anointed. That was not his to do. From rags to riches to rags again. The cross before the crown for David. (For further details read 1 Samuel chapters 19–27.)
The cross before the crown
We are in the season of Lent. We focus on the Passion History of Jesus the Christ, the Lord’s Anointed—the rightful King of heaven who eventually bore a cross of wood to his death! He was treated as public enemy number one by Israel’s religious leaders. Murderous jealousy and fear drove them to seek his life. Yet never did he rebel against government officials or incite his followers to riot. He meekly led a sublime life of obedience to his heavenly Father, an obedience that ended with execution outside Jerusalem. He was betrayed by one disciple, denied by another, and forsaken by all but one in his time of need. For Jesus, the cross preceded the crown, all to pay for and bury our sin forever. To live as if not heaven’s King that we be elevated to the positions of honor in God’s royal family.
And that is what you are in Christ, children of God. He tells us that disciples must take up their cross to follow him. It won’t be as intense as it was for Jesus, and it may not be as ugly as it was for David. But for the followers of Jesus, it’s always the same. The cross comes before the crown. It isn’t always easy, but Jesus never promised it would be. What he did promise is that he’ll strengthen us to bear it. And he did promise that, in Jesus, the crown is coming.
For further thought
Read Psalms 34, 52, 54, 56, 57, and 59, taking special note of the headings. How do they apply to the life of David? To the life of Jesus? To your own life?
This is the third article in a six-part series on King David and our future King.
Author: Timothy Westendorf
Volume 109, Number 03
Issue: March 2022