Prototype of Christ
The youngest among his brothers,
David was called from shepherding his father’s flock on Bethlehem’s fields
to be anointed by Samuel. “And the Spirit of the Lord seized upon David
from that day forward” (1 Samuel 16:11-13)...
David is the figure of the messianic
king of whom Isaiah says: “A shoot shall spring from the stump of Jesse
[David’s father, 1 Samuel 16:1], and a sprout from his root will bear fruit,
and the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him” (Isaiah 11:1). This prophecy
found its fulfillment in the Son of David whom the Spirit descended upon
as a dove . . . (Matthew 3:17).
There are many other traits in the
life of young David which show him to be the prototype of Christ, especially
his fight with Goliath (1 Samuel 17). Faith and spirit had left the Israelites
and their king Saul. They did not dare to answer the giant’s blasphemies.
Then David jumped into the breach, without armor, a true soldier of his
God, knowing that “not with sword or spear does the Lord deliver, for the
battle is the Lord’s” (1 Samuel 17:47). With a sling, a stone and a stick,
David overcomes all the most up-to-date might of Goliath (17:5). Who would
not be reminded of Christ, the one who jumped into the breach to give his
life for the whole people and conquered the power of Satan with the cross
on his shoulder?
Another beautiful sign of the love
of Christ prefigured in the life of young David is the friendship between
him and Jonathan (1 Samuel, chapters 18–20). Jonathan, who as a son of
Saul was heir to the kingdom, prefers to be excommunicated by his father
rather than to give up David, “whom he loved as his own life” (18:3). He
takes off his royal cloak, his sword, his bow and his girdle and gives
them to David. By this act he renounces his natural right to the throne
in favor of David. He entrusts his own life and that of his family completely
to the good graces of his friend: “O may you, if I am still alive, O may
you show me the kindness of the Lord!” (20:14). In doing this he represents
that portion of Israel which at the time of Christ will prefer to be banned
by their own people rather than leave the Son of David, who through his
incarnation had received the royal garment of Israel. It was this Jonathan-group
among the Jews, the apostles, to whom Christ revealed the secret of his
friendship: “Greater love than this no man has, that a man lay down his
life for his friends. You are my friends” (John 15:13-14). The friendship
between David and Jonathan was fulfilled in Christ who did more for his
friends than David ever did. He laid down his life for them.
David’s friendship with Jonathan
marks the beginning of those long years of trial which make him still more
a figure of Christ (1 Samuel, chapters 21–29). The desert becomes David’s
refuge. Abandoned by all, without arms, without food, he receives from
the priest the holy bread of the Lord, which was always kept in the sanctuary
(21:3-6), and the sword of Goliath which also had been preserved in the
tabernacle. At every turn God shows that David is his anointed one, the
man according to his heart. David himself could not have given better witness
to the love of God working in his heart than he did by answering Saul’s
incessant persecution by sparing his life (24:6; 26:9). . . .
David himself was the “Christ,” the
“anointed one” of the Lord (Psalm 132:17). His name—David, the beloved
one (see Matthew 3:17)—his birthplace Bethlehem (see Luke 2:11), his youth
as a shepherd (1 Samuel 17:34-37), his beauty (16:12): really everything
in his life foreshadows the Messiah. He won the hearts of his fellow-countrymen
through his kindness, and the bond thus established between him and his
people points to the new covenant of love between Christ and his Church.
Indeed, what the tribes of Israel said to David the day he was proclaimed
their king: “We are bones of your bones and flesh of your flesh” (2 Samuel
5:1), gives us the first inkling of the great mystery of the mystical body
of Christ which St. Paul was later to reveal. David’s wars and victories
have also a messianic character. “It is God that girds me with strength,
that teaches my hands to war” (Psalm 18:32, 34). It is God that lights
David’s candle in darkness, by whom he leaps over the wall (Psalm 18:28).
His victories are anticipations of the great victory which the “Son of
David” won at his resurrection. The “sure mercies of David” of which Isaiah
speaks (55:3) are fulfilled in Jesus, the Son of David, who did not see
corruption, because God raised him from the dead (Acts 13:34-37).
[This article is excerpted
from Pathways in Scripture: A book-by-book guide to the spiritual riches
of the Bible, by Damasus Winzen. The Pathways in Holy Scripture
was written in the late 1940s when Father Winzen was chaplain to the Benedictine
nuns of Regina Laudis Monastery in Connecticut. They were printed one by
one, following the liturgical seasons, and distributed to subscribers.
The book was brought up to date and republished in 1976 by Servant Books,
Ann Arbor, Michigan. A new edition was published in 2003 by Saint Anthony
Messenger Press & Franciscan Communications for the The
St. Paul Center Studies in Biblical Theology and Spirituality.]
||Fr. Damasus Winzen, OSB
(1901-1971), became a Benedictine monk at the German Abbey of Maria Laach.
one of the frist centers of Catholic liturgical renewal. He came to the
United States before World War II to escape Nazi persecution. In 1951 he
founded Mount Savior Monastery near Elmira, New York. He lived there until
his death in 1971. A monk and scholar, Winzen served as associate editor
of Orate Fratres and editor of Pathways in Holy Scripture. He was
a prime mover in the organization of the Benedictine Liturgical Conference
(later known as the National Liturgical Conference).