Looking for a King Like David (Ezekiel 34:11-24)


The word “Advent” means “coming.” During the Advent season, we have been anticipating and celebrating Christ’s coming by learning that Christ is a synonym for Messiah, and that both words mean Anointed One. Jesus came to meet all of our needs by fulfilling the three anointed offices of prophet, priest, and king.

By studying Deuteronomy 18:15, we learned that God’s Old Testament people were looking for a prophet like Moses and that Jesus met all the criteria. Jesus represents the Father, declares his word, and calls us to repentance.

By studying Psalm 110:4, we learned that God’s Old Testament people were looking for a priest like Melchizedek and that Jesus met all the criteria. Jesus atoned for sin once and for all, and lives forever to intercede for us in heaven.

But there is one more office that needs to be filled: the office of king. God’s people need someone to defeat all of their enemies and provide for them as a shepherd.

Scripture Reading

Turn to Ezekiel 34:11-24.

11 “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.

Continuing in verse 23:

23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken.

Concluding in Ezekiel 37:24-25:

24 My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes. 25 They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever.

King David

Ezekiel 34 depicts God’s people as scattered sheep. After the Israelites were taken into exile, some returned to rebuild their homeland (see Ezra-Nehemiah), but most were scattered throughout the ancient world.

Israel needed a great king to come and shepherd God’s scattered people. They needed a king like David.

  • David was a shepherd boy who was willing to lay down his life for his sheep. Before confronting Goliath, David told Saul that he had faced a lion and a bear to protect his flock.
  • David was a man after God’s own heart.
  • David was chosen by God to be king. He was God’s man for the job.
  • David was promised by God that his descendants would reign on Israel’s throne forever. In 2 Samuel 7, God made a covenant with David: “I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”
  • David was a shepherd for his people. God called Saul to be a shepherd to Israel (2 Samuel 5:2), but he failed. David, however, was truly a shepherd King.

Israel needed a king like David, but David had been dead for centuries when Ezekiel penned God’s promise: “And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd” (37:24).

In Israel’s darkest days, they understood that “David” referred to an Anointed One who would arise in the likeness of David. They hoped in the promise that a King like David would arise to redeem them.

The Davidic Messiah

The image of the Messiah as a Davidic King is a common one in the Scriptures. Jeremiah 30:9 and Hosea 3:5 also promise a day when David will once again be king over God’s people through his descendant, the Messiah.

The popular promise in Isaiah 9:6-7, which declares, “unto us a child is born…. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” is a promise about the government of the Davidic King:

Unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulders…. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from that time and forevermore.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a Righteous Branch, and He will reign wisely as king and administer justice and righteousness in the land” (Jeremiah 23:5).

Israel was a people of promise. Whenever they were faithful to the Lord, they lived with a posture of looking for the promised King. But it was not until after the Exile that their looking turned into painful groaning and agonizing anticipation. Between the Old and New Testament, there were nearly 400 years when Israel was without a king.

Rome moved in and Israel was forced to submit to their authority. Roman tax collectors enforced payment to Caesar. Many Jews became fixated on vying for political power instead of placing their hope in the plain promise of the Scriptures.

Can This Be The Son of David?

Fourteen generations after the exile, a faithful remnant of Israelites were still looking for the Davidic King. And they began to take notice to a peculiar figure who was born in Bethlehem, the same birthplace as David—a man who was growing in favor with God and with man.

In Matthew 12, we read that Jesus of Nazareth was going about teaching and healing. In verse 22, “a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, ‘Can this be the Son of David?'”

It was well-known that Jesus was the lowercase son (descendant) of David, as it is established in the very first verse of Matthew’s Gospel (and the entire New Testament): “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Like a birth certificate qualifies someone to be president, Jesus was qualified to be a Davidic king. But was Jesus the Davidic king? Was he the Son of David?

Some people certainly thought so. Matthew records that when Jesus left Nazareth, “two blind men followed him, crying aloud, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David’” (9:27).

When Jesus was in “the district of Tyre and Sidon…a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon’” (Matthew 15:21-22).

When Jesus left Jericho, he was once again acknowledged as the Son of David:

There were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, ‘Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!’The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, ‘Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!’And stopping, Jesus called them and said, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, let our eyes be opened.’ And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.” (Matthew 20:30-34)

An Upside-Down King

While the poor and oppressed recognized Jesus as the Son of David, the rest of Israel was not convinced. But Israel wasn’t really looking. They had stopped looking for God’s Promised One and invented a Messiah that would accomplish their own purposes. After years under Roman rule, Israel was looking for a king to destroy Rome and establish an earthly kingdom.

Jesus didn’t fit their mold. They didn’t want Jesus of Nazareth. They wanted a Jesus that fit neatly into their lives. If they had looked more closely at the Old Testament prophecies, they would have realized that the Promised King was not a typical king.

Zechariah 9:9 exults:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

The coming King was to be a humble king. This is consistent with the image of the shepherd-king in Ezekiel 34. One writer explains,

The shepherd image is the ancient way that monarchs communicated, ‘I feel your pain.’ The focus of the image is on the care and protection the shepherd offers the flock. Ancient monarchs were no different than contemporary political leaders: however self-serving their motives, they wanted their constituents and subjects to imagine that they personally cared for them.

God promised a sincere shepherd. He would not come to be served, but to serve others, and to give his life as a ransom for many. He would be the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, slain for the straying sheep. Another writer adds, “The king as a shepherd…was expected to rule with justice and to show kindness in counseling, protecting, and guiding the people through every difficulty.”

When Jesus was moved with compassion and knelt down in the dust to help two penniless blind men, he was demonstrating the heart of a shepherd-king. Compared to the kings of the earth, Jesus was truly an upside-down king. And his kingdom was an upside-down kingdom. Jesus did not seek for the wealthy or the powerful; instead, Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

Israel refused to accept an upside-down king like Jesus. They wanted nothing to do with his upside-down kingdom. But Israel was right about one thing—a king must be enthroned and defeat his enemies, or his servants will never be free.

Enthroned on the Cross

When Jesus made his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, “the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’ (Matthew 21:9). ‘But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were indignant” (Matthew 21:15).

The religious leaders had made their choice: they rejected Jesus as king and began to plot against him. Within a few days, Jesus was arrested, tried in a kangaroo court, and sentenced to the horrors of Roman crucifixion.

Little did they know, Christ was about to be enthroned.

Psalm 2 is one of the most important Messianic passages in the Old Testament. There we read,

“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed…. He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, ‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.’”

In Acts 4, the disciples quote from this passage:

Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Psalm 2 asserts that the people plotted in vain against the Lord’s Anointed: although they thought that they defeated Jesus on the cross, they were just pawns in God’s Sovereign hands, carrying out his predestined purposes.

On the cross, the upside-down king was enthroned. Matthew is very purposeful in the details that he records:

And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand [as a scepter]. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (Matthew 27:28-29)

Afterward, Jesus was high and lifted up on his throne—the cross. And a sign above his head declared who he was: King of the Jews.

The enthroning of Jesus was a not a typical enthroning, but it was perfect for an upside-down king—one who conquered his enemies by love.

The enthroning of Jesus was a not a typical enthroning, but it was perfect for an upside-down king—one who conquered his enemies by love.

Jesus was not facing a typical enemy. Rome could be defeated with swords and torches. But Jesus recognized that our true enemy is not physical—it is spiritual. The real enemies of God’s people are sin and Satan. And as a shepherd-king like David, Jesus needed to defeat these enemies once and for all. He did this by bearing all of the world’s sin and evil upon himself on the cross.

The Good Shepherd King

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). When the king’s sheep were on the way to the slaughterhouse to pay the penalty for their sins, the king stepped in as a spotless Lamb to be slain in their place. The King went to the cross as the sheep’s representative and took the penalty of his royal law upon himself.

What kind of king is this? A king who lays down his life for his sheep? “Truly, truly I say to you…I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:7-11).

Jesus fulfilled Ezekiel 34:16: the shepherd will “seek that which was lost.”

If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. (Matthew 18:12-14)

  • Like David, Jesus was a shepherd who was willing to lay down his life for his sheep.
  • Like David, Jesus was a man after God’s own heart.
  • Like David, Jesus was chosen by God to be king.
  • Like David, Jesus was promised by God that he would reign forever.

Philippians 2 records the unusual path to Christ’s exaltation:

Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

There is coming a day when Jesus will return, not only to gather the sheep but also to judge the goats. In that day, he will destroy all of God’s enemies from among men. Every knee will bow and every trace of sin will be eradicated from the earth. Psalm 2 goes on to record the Father’s promise to the Son:

You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

What are we to do in light of this fact? How do we escape the day of his wrath?

The conclusion of Psalm 2 supplies the answer:

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”

Those who are blessed by the King are those who are poor in spirit. They confess their spiritual poverty. They admit, “I’m totally bankrupt. My righteousness piggy bank is empty. My only hope is for you to pardon me, O Great King.”

Those who are blessed by the King are those who confess their spiritual poverty.

If you are poor in spirit, King Jesus has a place in his service for you. When Saul was chasing David and trying to kill him, 1 Samuel 22:2 records that “everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them.” The good news that Jesus brings is preached to the poor—those who acknowledge their need.

Matthew refers to this good news as “the gospel of the kingdom.” The gospel is a message about the King and his Kingdom: the King has come. On the cross, he defeated sin, then rose from the grave in power to defeat the last enemy, which is death. For a little while, he has gone away. All who flee to him for refuge will find safety inside the walls of the kingdom. But one day he will come again, and whoever has not bowed the knee and kissed the Son will find themselves resisting God himself. They will be cut off from God forever and cast into the king’s prison—an eternal hell.

If you bow now, you will find that his love is steadfast and his mercy is great. But if you wait, you will surely bear the full weight of God’s righteous wrath. Whether you bow now or later, you will bow.

The Christmas King

There is no better time than Christmastime to acknowledge Christ as King. When Gabriel appeared to Mary in Luke 1:31–33, he said,

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.

The carols confess the child-king:

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a Child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.

By Thine own eternal Spirit,
Rule in all our hearts alone.
By Thine all-sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

O ye heights of heav’n adore Him;
Angel hosts, His praises sing.
Pow’rs, dominions, bow before Him,
And extol our God and King.
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Ev’ry voice in concert ring,
Evermore and evermore! Amen.

Will you bow now to this child King? I bow now, King Jesus.

Johnathan Arnold
Johnathan Arnold
Johnathan Arnold is President and Founder of Holy Joys. He serves as a preaching and teaching pastor in Newport, PA, where he lives with his wife Alexandra and son Adam. You can connect with him on Twitter @jsarnold7.