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Saints of the Old Testament: St. David, king and prophet


"The Tree of Jesse"
St. David in a dream foresees his blessed offspring
From the frontispiece of the 15th century breviary of Philippe le Bon
MS 9511 - Royal Library of Belgium-Brussels


And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse,
and a flower shall rise up out of his root.
And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him:
the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding,
the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude,
the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness.
And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge according to the sight of the eyes,
nor reprove according to the hearing of the ears.
But he shall judge the poor in righteousness,
and shall reprove with equity for the meek of the earth:
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins:
and faith the girdle of his reins . . .
In that day the root of Jesse, who standeth for an ensign of the people,
him shall the Gentiles beseech,
and his sepulchre shall be glorious.
(Isaias 11:1-10)

And one of the presbyters said to me: Weep not; behold, the lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
(Apocalypse 5:5)
While the Church on this, the 5th. day of Christmas, celebrates the glorious martyrdom of St. Thomas of Canterbury, who died fighting for the liberty and exaltation of Holy Mother Church, the traditional Roman Martyrology also reminds us today of the renowned father of the Messiah, St. David the King (reigned circa 1010-970 B.C.):


This Day, the Twenty-Ninth Day of December



At Canterbury, in England, the birthday of St. Thomas, bishop and martyr, who, for the defense of justice and ecclesiastical immunities, was struck with the sword in his own basilica by a faction of impious men, and thus went to Christ. 


At Jerusalem, holy David, king and prophet




Of the manifold blessings that God heaped upon King David, the greatest was that he was chosen to be not only the prototype of the Messiah but His very lineal ancestor. This is why "Son of David" is one of the most important titles of the Messiah. Thus, the primeval promise of the coming of the Woman's Seed who would crush the Serpent's head (Gen. 3:15) God would devolve successively upon the family of Shem (Gen. 9:27), upon Shem's descendant Abraham (Gen. 12:3), upon Isaac (Gen. 26:4), upon Jacob (Gen. 28:14), and upon Judah (Gen. 49:9-12).  The Messianic hope then devolved upon Judah's descendant David (Ruth 4:12, 18-22; I Par. 2:3-5, 9-15), to whom God promised through Nathan the Prophet that He would establish his throne and kingdom eternally (II Kings 7:11-29). The prophecy of Nathan was fulfilled by Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham, whose lawful father St. Joseph and most blessed mother St. Mary were scions of the House of David (Matt. 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-31; Rom. 1:3; Apoc. 5:5).

Here is the old Catholic Encyclopedia's resume of the great things that God has accomplished through St. David the King, model of pious kingship, holy prophet, and sweet psalmist of Israel (emphasis added):

The Bible records David's sins and weaknesses without excuse or palliation, but it also records his repentance, his acts of virtue, his generosity towards Saul, his great faith, and his piety. Critics who have harshly criticized his character have not considered the difficult circumstances in which he lived or the manners of his age. . . . The life of David was an important epoch in the history of Israel. He was the real founder of the monarchy, the head of the dynasty. Chosen by God "as a man according to His own heart," David was tried in the school of suffering during the days of exile and developed into a military leader of renown. To him was due the complete organization of the army. He gave Israel a capital, a court, a great centre of religious worship. The little band at Odollam became the nucleus of an efficient force. When he became King of all Israel there were 339,600 men under his command. At the census 1,300,000 were enumerated capable of bearing arms. A standing army, consisting of twelve corps, each 24,000 men, took turns in serving for a month at a time as the garrison of Jerusalem. The administration of his palace and his kingdom demanded a large retinue of servants and officials. Their various offices are set down in 1 Par. 27. The king himself exercised the office of judge, though Levites were later appointed for this purpose, as well as other minor officials.When the Ark had been brought to Jerusalem, David undertook the organization of religious worship. The sacred functions were entrusted to 24,000 Levites; 6,000 of these were scribes and judges, 4000 were porters, and 4,000 singers. He arranged the various parts of the ritual, allotting to each section its tasks. The priests were divided into twenty-four families; the musicians into twenty-four choirs. To Solomon had been reserved the privilege of building God's house, but David made ample preparations for the work by amassing treasures and materials, as well as by transmitting to his son a plan for the building and all its details. We are told in I Par. how he exhorted his son Solomon to carry out this great work and made known to the assembled princes the extent of his preparations.The prominent part played by song and music in the worship of the temple, as arranged by David, is readily explained by his poetic and musical abilities. His skill in music is recorded in 1 Kings 16:18 and Amos 6:5. Poems of his composition are found in 2 Kings 1, 3, 22, 23. His connection with the Book of Psalms, many of which are expressly attributed to various incidents of his career, was so taken for granted in later days that many ascribed the whole Psalter to him. . . .
David was not merely king and ruler, he was also a prophet. "The spirit of the Lord hath spoken by me and his word by my tongue" (2 Kings 23:2) is a direct statement of prophetic inspiration in the poem there recorded. St. Peter tells us that he was a prophet (Acts 2:30). His prophecies are embodied in the Psalms he composed that are literally Messianic and in "David's last words" (2 Kings 23). The literal character of these Messianic Psalms is indicated in the New Testament. They refer to the suffering, the persecution, and the triumphant deliverance of Christ, or to the prerogatives conferred on Him by the Father. In addition to these his direct prophecies, David himself has always been regarded as a type of the Messias. In this the Church has but followed the teaching of the Old Testament Prophets. The Messias was to be the great theocratic king; David, the ancestor of the Messias, was a king according to God's own heart. His qualities and his very name are attributed to the Messias. Incidents in the life of David are regarded by the Fathers as foreshadowing the life of Christ; Bethlehem is the birthplace of both; the shepherd life of David points out Christ, the Good Shepherd; the five stones chosen to slay Goliath are typical of the five wounds. The betrayal by his trusted counsellor, Achitophel, and the passage over the Cedron remind us of Christ's Sacred Passion. Many of the Davidic Psalms, as we learn from the New Testament, are clearly typical of the future Messias.


All ye holy patriarchs and prophets,


Pray for us!