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The King's Men

Michael Vogelsang

The apostle Paul's remark in Romans 15:4 that, "Whatever things were written afore time were written for our learning" has always encouraged readers of the Bible to search for such teaching in the Old Testament.

The history of the kings of Israel certainly contains a wealth of practical instruction for the life of faith. Scripture gives a very beautiful description of the relationship between David and his men. Who were those that followed the God-anointed but man-rejected king?  In 1 Samuel 22 David gathers a number of men around himself in the cave Adullam, who are described as "every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented" (v. 2). What a beautiful picture of all those sinners that have come to the Lord with all their sins, burdens and debt, recognising Him as their Lord. "And he became a captain over them" (1 Sam. 22:2). The Lord is still looking for those that are willing to share with Him, their "captain," the place of rejection in this world.

In this article we intend to look particularly at another aspect of the relationship between David and his men. When David finally takes his place as king over Israel he gives several tasks to some of his faithful followers (2 Sam. 8:15-18). His son Solomon later transfers similar tasks or offices to his servants (1 Kings 4:1-6). Rather than deal with the prophetic side of this picture which looks on to Christ's millennial reign, we would like to dwell on the prac­tical side, because the different tasks mentioned also speak of different activities in the life of a Christian.

The Priests

"And Zadok the son of Ahitub, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, were the priests" (2 Sam. 8:17). "And Zadok and Abiathar were the priests" (1 Kings 4:4).

Even though the priests are not mentioned first in these lists, we want to begin with them as priesthood is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of service. Furthermore it is a service that is open to every saint, which could not be said of all the other forms of service we are going to consider.

All servants of the "true David" are priests. In the Old Testa­ment, God chose one family to fulfil the priestly tasks among the people of Israel. In the New Testament assembly of God, every believer is entitled to enter the sanctuary. The apostle Peter writes about the fact that the priesthood of the believer has a two-fold character. First, it is a "holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5). We have the privilege of entering into God's presence to offer up spiritual sacrifices, sacrifices of praise to God. "The fruit of the lips confessing His name" (Heb. 13:15, J.N.D. Trans.). This "worship. in spirit and in truth" is the highest privilege of the people of God on earth. Second, it is "A kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a people for a possession, that ye might set forth the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness to His wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:9, J.N.D. Trans.). In this aspect we as believers are a testimony for God in this world. How God would be glorified if we - His people - had a better knowledge of our position as priests and acted faithfully as such in our practical behaviour.

The warriors

"And Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the host;... And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over both the Cherethites and the Pelethites" (2 Sam. 8:16, 18).

The people of God are not only priests but also warriors. To contend for the faith needs all the power and energy of a life devoted to the Lord. "Because our struggle is not against blood and flesh, but against principalities, against authorities, against the universal lords of this darkness, against spiritual power of wicked­ness in the heavenlies" (Eph. 6:12, J.N.D. Trans.). But we are equipped with the necessary armour for this fight: the whole armour of God.

In addition there is the fight for the furtherance of the truth which we find in 2 Corinthians 10:4: "For the weapons of our war­fare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds." In our spiritual warfare we too can count on the same support as the Psalmist: "Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight" (Psa. 144:1). How good it would be if it could be said of us in a spiritual sense, "a strong people set in battle array" (Joel 2:5).

How sad on the other hand, if the description of Ephraim could be used to describe our present condition: "The sons of Ephraim, armed bowmen, turned back in the day of battle" (Psa. 78:9, J.N.D. Trans.). Especially for the last days the exhortation of Jude is "to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3, J.N.D. Trans.).

Among the warriors of David were also those "Cherethites and. Pelethites." They were a kind of special body-guard of the king. Doesn't this remind us that even today, perhaps more than ever, men of God are needed that take special care in "guarding" the holy person of our Lord. They see to it that all the fundamental truths about His person-His eternal sonship, His virgin birth, His sinless humanity, His divine person, His atoning death, His resur­rection and ascension, His second coming, among others-are upheld and defended.

Writers of chronicles

"And Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder" (or remem­brancer, writer of chronicles. J.N.D. Trans.-chronicler) ". and Seraiah was the scribe" (or secretary. 2 Sam. 8:16-17). "Elihoreph and Ahiah, the sons of Shisha, scribes" (1 Kings 4:3).

The writers of chronicles had to record all remarkable and impor­tant events in the life of the king and his people. It is not so much our task to write down "our" history or the "history of brethren" but the "history" of our Lord's ways with His people and His prin­ciples for His people today.

The Hebrew word is connected with the idea of "to remember, to bring into remembrance." How important and necessary is such a ministry today: to bring to rembembrance the principles of the "true David" and His ways with His people. Were not the New Testament writers "writers of chronicles" in this sense, as the following quotations show: "Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in rembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up, by putting you in remem­brance" (2 Peter 1:12-13). "I will therefore put you in remem­brance, though ye once knew this ... But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 5, 17). "Put them in mind to be subject to principali­ties and powers" (Titus 3:1). 

The overseers

"And Azariah the son of Nathan was over the officers" (J.N.D. Trans.-superintendents; chief officers. 1 Kings 4:5).

In the New Testament we have something similar in the terms "elders" or "overseers" which both indicate the same persons (cp. Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5, 7; 1 Peter 5:1-2). In the apostolic days the apostles or their representatives officially appointed such in different assemblies. In his epistles to Timothy and Titus Paul describes in detail the qualifications necessary for those who were appointed as overseers.

In our days there is no longer any official appointment of elders. But the tasks overseers were expected to perform are still to be done for the spiritual well-being of the saints. So the words of Paul to the elders of Ephesus have not lost their force: "Take heed there­fore to yourselves and to all the flock, wherein the Holy Spirit has set you as overseers, to shepherd the assembly of God, which He has purchased with the blood of His own" (Acts 20:28 J.N.D. Trans.). May we heed also the exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13: "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake."

Deacon service

"And Ahishar was over the household; and Adoniram the son of Abda was over the tribute" (1 Kings 4:6).

The work of these men was to deal with the outward and material aspects of the king's palace. Such service in the spiritual house of God in the New Testament is what we may call "deacon service." We might be tempted to put less value on such practical aspects of service which involve dealing with material things in the work of the Lord. But the Lord's verdict is quite different. When in the beginning of Christianity men were to be chosen to "serve tables," these men had to be "of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom" (Acts 6:2, 3). In 1 Timothy 3 Paul describes the qualifi­cations of a deacon. As we study them carefully we surely recog­nise that spiritual qualifications are needed even for a practical kind of service for the Lord.

Intimate counsellors

"And David's sons were chief rulers (princes)" (2 Sam. 8:18).

"And Zabud the son of Nathan was principal officer, and the king's friend" (1 Kings 4:5).

We now come back to where we started, because the word used here is one that is mostly translated as "priest."1 But these men (e.g. David's sons) were obviously not from the priestly tribe. They had a further task at the palace. The German Elberfelder translation gives the marginal rendering "intimate counsellor."

In all the necessary conflict for the Lord and His truth, and in all the necessary administration among the people of God, what the Lord is looking for is intimate communion with His own. Are we those "intimate counsellors" who know and appreciate communion with Him?  Who were these men?  In the case of David we read that it was his sons. We are called "children of God" as well as "sons of God" in the New Testament. As sons we have fellowship with the Father in what fills His heart: that is the person of His Son, our blessed Lord and Redeemer.

In the case of Solomon, we read that Zabud was “the king’s friend.” Again we have the idea of intimacy. Abraham is called “the Friend of God” (James 2:23; cp. Isa. 41:8; 2 Chron. 20:7). God could have fellowship with Abraham, communicating to him His counsels concerning Sodom and Gomorrah. Moses was another man to whom God spoke “face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Ex. 33:11). “He made known His ways unto Moses, His acts unto the children of Israel” (Psa. 103:7).

In John 15 the Lord calls His disciples His friends, revealing to them the two leading principles of this relationship: obedience (“Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you,” verse 14) and communion (“I have called you friends: for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you,” verse 15).

1The Hebrew word for a priest is “cohen” throughout the Old Testament, with the exception of three passages. In 1 Kings 4:5 the A.V. renders it “principal officer”; in 2 Samuel 8:18 and 20:26 it has been rendered “chief rulers” (margin, “Princes”). “Possibly the usage of the word in the passages now quoted is a remnant of its original signification, at a time when one man combined in himself the priestly and the kingly office” (R.B. Girdlestone, Syno­nyms of the Old Testament).

Do we know and experience something of this blessed intimate fellowship with the Father and the Son?  None of us will be equipped for all the tasks and services with which we have been occupied. As far as service is concerned the Lord gives the talents “to each according to his particular ability” (Matt. 25:15 J.N.D. Trans.). But the enjoyment of intimate communion with Him is a privilege open to every believer.