Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?
In years past I often wondered what Jesus meant when he asked Nicodemus this question. No one alive during Jesus’ time could comprehend what God’s true plan of salvation was, so why was He putting Nicodemus on the spot like this? Even Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, admits that the plan of salvation by Jesus Christ and Him crucified was hidden during earlier times and that it was the church’s purpose to make known “…to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:10-11)
Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a ruler and teacher of the Jews, therefore he should have been fully familiar with the Word of God and most likely had much of it memorized. However, since Jesus had not yet died, risen and ascended into heaven, and the Holy Spirit had not yet been given, he did not have the enlightenment of the Spirit of Truth upon the Word of God. When the Jews read the scriptures they saw the meaning of the names of people, places and things. However, the translators who translated from Hebrew to English merely transliterated the names for us, finding an English spelling which would give us a similar sound, when it came to proper nouns, rather than translating their meaning. This is why Jesus asked Nicodemus “Are you the teacher of Israel and you do not know these things?” when he asked Jesus what He meant by “you must be born again”. Anyone in Israel who studied the scriptures should have been able to see these things clearly, yet having eyes, they did not see. While I am aware that one can over-spiritualize many things in scripture, I am convinced that this story played out in reality just as the Bible says it did. However, God made sure that the names of the people and places in the story of David also told the story of Christ’s victory on the cross.
1 Samuel 16
1Now the LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.”
2And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul (asked or demand) hears it, he will kill me.”
Here Saul is symbolic of the system of law. First and foremost, the law was given to Moses, which was good and right, and it was the “handwriting of requirements that was against us” (Col. 2:14) It was what God asked or demanded of us. However, it lacked the power and ability to forgive; it lacked the power ability to set free; it lacked the power and ability to stop death which was the punishment for not keeping the whole law. God had already rejected Saul for his incomplete obedience of God’s word. The law can tell us what God demands of us, yet it does not help us in our fallen, weakened state to obey. It merely required sacrifice to atone for our incomplete obedience of God’s Word. This is why God had rejected Saul to rule and reign over His people. And as we will see in chapter 17, Saul, symbolic of the law, was powerless against death.
But the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ 3Then invite Jesse (Yahweh exists) to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; you shall anoint for Me the one I name to you.”
4So Samuel did what the LORD said, and went to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, “Do you come peaceably?”
5And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice.
6So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, “Surely the LORD’S anointed is before Him!”
7But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
8So Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 9Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 10Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen these.”
The names of David’s three oldest brothers are Eliab (God is father), Abinadab (the father is generous), and Shammah (waste or ruin). These are symbolic of the three primary ways that man attempts to present himself righteous before God.
The name Eliab sounds holy, but we can see in 1 Samuel 17:28 that his heart was not right just as God had said.
1 Samuel 17:28 Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger was aroused against David, and he said, “Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.”
There are many who sound and look holy outwardly but take no thought of God’s will. They may claim to be of God and put on a good outward show, but deep inside they are “whitewashed tombs… full of dead men’s bones”. They may think they are righteous either by their works, past standing in the church or their relationship to others in the church, but they are relying on all of the wrong things to show themselves righteous before the Lord.
Abinadab apparently liked to do good works, as his name implies, but as God said, He had rejected him. Many people do good works but it is out of selfish ambition to make a name for themselves rather than to please God. The Pharisees were like this. Whenever they would do a charitable deed, they would stand on a street corner and announce it to everyone, yet they would not help the man who had been beaten and left for dead, laying in a ditch. This is becoming more and more common in the church today. People doing good deeds for others, but because they think this will save them and present them righteous, they do not bother to tell others about Jesus and their need for the Savior. They may have a wonderfully organized program, they may have the entire community involved, but if the gospel isn’t preached, then it does no one any good.
Shammah is the brother who believes that he must give everything up for the sake of suffering itself, rather than suffering for the sake of Jesus and the gospel. We see people like this so much in the world and they are making their way into the church as well. They are much like a Catholic monk, trying to put their body through much pain and depravation, but God has rejected this as well. We cannot suffer enough to please God. Our suffering will not save us. It is only by the once and for all shed blood of Jesus that we can be declared just and righteous before a Holy God.
The scriptures do not mention the other brothers’ names but these three represent the three most common ways man attempts to show himself righteous. The number seven represents completeness. Therefore, the fact that seven brothers appear and are rejected shows that God has rejected each and every one of man’s attempts to be righteous in his own strength.
11And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.”
And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” 12So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” 13Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David (well beloved) from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.
David is a type and a shadow of Jesus Christ. His name means “well beloved” just as God said of Jesus, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” David is in stark contrast to Saul. While Saul sought to make a name for himself among the nations by not completely obeying God because he thought God’s instructions were too severe, David put his dedication to obeying God’s Word first in spite of what others thought. Then Saul sought to atone for his sin by offering up sacrifices for himself without a priest, which was unlawful. Saul was more concerned with doing his own will then sacrificing to cover his sin. David was more concerned with obeying God’s will to start with and glorifying Him, rather than offering up sacrifices. This brings to mind a contrast between the law and Jesus which is explained in Hebrews 10:1-10
1For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.
5Therefore, when He came into the world, He said:
“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,
But a body You have prepared for Me.
6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin
You had no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—
In the volume of the book it is written of Me—
To do Your will, O God.’”
8Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), 9then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. 10By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
We also see in Acts 13:22 that David was a man after God’s own heart.
22And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David
the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’
Jesus testified of Himself in John 14:49-50.
49For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. 50And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”
Even though Jesus is the Son of God and equal with God the Father in power, authority, and substance, He still submitted to the Father’s will and was obedient “even unto death”.
14But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him. 15And Saul’s servants said to him, “Surely, a distressing spirit from God is troubling you. 16Let our master now command your servants, who are before you, to seek out a man who is a skillful player on the harp. And it shall be that he will play it with his hand when the distressing spirit from God is upon you, and you shall be well.”
17So Saul said to his servants, “Provide me now a man who can play well, and bring him to me.”
18Then one of the servants answered and said, “Look, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the LORD is with him.”
19Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.” 20And Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine, and a young goat, and sent them by his son David to Saul. 21So David came to Saul and stood before him. And he loved him greatly, and he became his armorbearer. 22Then Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Please let David stand before me, for he has found favor in my sight.” 23And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.
We see in verse 20 that David brought to Saul bread, a skin of wine and a young goat, all on the back of a donkey. Jesus said, “I Am the Bread of Life”. He told them that their fathers ate manna in the wilderness but were now dead, but whoever ate of Him, the Bread of Life, would not die. The bread He was offering them was His flesh; another reference to the cross.
Also, Jesus brought to us the “new wine” of the Holy Spirit, which can only be received if we have been born again by His blood sacrifice on the cross. Jesus taught His disciples that you do not put new wine in old wine skins, otherwise they would burst. A wineskin consisted of the skin of a goat or sheep, which had been specially treated and sealed to hold the wine. Once a skin had been used, it had to be “made new” before it could be reused otherwise pressure from the gases inside as the wine aged would cause it to burst. The process for making the skin new included turning the skin inside out and treating it with olive oil to make the skin supple and pliable once again so that it could expand and not burst. This paints a beautiful picture of a believer being born again; God turning the believer inside out and making them supple and pliable to do His will by the application of the oil of His Holy Spirit.
The young goat points to the Old Testament sin offering. Different offerings or sacrifices had different meanings and functions, but they all pointed to Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross which encompassed all sacrifices which must be offered up to God. The young goat was used as a sin offering and would later be referred to the animal as a “scape goat”. Even though the animal had done nothing worthy of death, the sins of the one offering it were laid on the goat symbolically by him laying his hands on its head to transfer the sins to the animal. This was the animal which was supposed to take the sins away from the one offering it.
However, in Hebrews 10:4, we read “4For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” Therefore, Christ had to die on Calvary to take away our sins.
These three gifts to Saul paint a picture of the New Testament covenant which we have in Jesus Christ and they were presented to Saul riding on a donkey. What is the significance of this? Jesus rode into Jerusalem just before His crucifixion on the back of a donkey. In the Middle East, during the time the Bible was written, if a king were to enter a city with the intent of war, then he would ride in on horseback. However, if he were coming in peace, then he would ride in on the back of a donkey to show his lack of aggression.
Jesus was offering a new covenant, also seen in the Lord’s supper with the bread and wine signifying His death on the cross. Just as Jesus told His disciples, the bread was His flesh and the wine was His blood and we must partake of them, in the figurative sense, in order to be His. Hebrews 10:9 reads, “9then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second.:” David had been anointed to be king to take Saul’s place. Saul is symbolic of the law and David is symbolic of Jesus. Jesus was riding into Jerusalem, the seat of Jewish worship under the law in a non-aggressive way to offer the New Covenant, which is Jesus Himself, to those who were worshipping under the law.
Copyright August 2009