“He was despised and rejected by men…”Isaiah 53:3
“Woe unto you when all men speak well of you…”Jesus, Luke 6:26
Even a cursory understanding of Jesus’s life in the Gospels would convince a person that rejection was a big part of his ministry. He lost masses of followers at times, was abhorred by many of his own people, was unwelcomed in his own town, and even mistreated by his own family.
So while the truth of being rejected by others is worth filtering through the life of Christ, I find it even more stunning when you do the same through one of his most famous ancestors: King David.
David? For real? Wasn’t he hand-picked by God, lauded by the people over Saul after killing Goliath, and made king for 40 years? That David? Rejected?
Yes. That David. His story is so long and detailed, covering the vast majority of the 40+ chapters from 1 Samuel 16 to 1 Kings 1, that all manner of plot twists happen in his life. And the major, famous events from his life belie the truth of how David was regularly treated by countrymen and foes alike.
King David experienced mass rejection numerous times in his life. Both before becoming king and after. I’d describe it as a dominant theme of his biography. I have no idea if God intended this to be a foreshadowing of Christ in the New Testament, as I am sure there are other ways David was a “type” of Christ. Notably the connection they have as kings. But regardless of whether this is intentional, I do know the fact David was rejected often is because it is a truth of being a follower of the Christian God. Rejection should be expected in our religion.
To begin with, I think Samuel’s approach to finding a king among Jesse’s sons qualifies for this topic. While not mass rejection, nor personal to David even, there is zero doubt that David was not going to be Samuel’s choice for king. He wasn’t physically impressive enough. That had to sting some.
Then Saul absolutely derailed David’s life with his jealous hatred. David spent years on the run, hiding in caves, pretending to be insane and all other manner of undignified circumstances. All because the king rejected him.
But then the mass rejection begins, while he is on the run. In 1 Samuel 29, the Philistines will not let him join them. That episode given the history was understandable. But then in 1 Samuel 30, it’s his own men. After they returned home, the Amalakites had destroyed their camp and taken their wives and children. And his people talked of stoning him, causing him great distress. I get upset when people complain about when I do the announcements in my church. I cannot fathom facing this kind of rejection.
But then Saul dies and David becomes king and that part of his life is over, right? Not at all.
David’s own son, Absalom, conspires to take the kingdom away from David. This should surely fail, right? These people loved David, right? 2 Samuel 15:13: “Then a messenger came to David, saying, ‘The hearts of the people of Israel are with Absalom’.” And David has to flee his own home. As king! Amazing.
But then God intervenes and through some bad advice and fighting and a tree getting involved with Absalom’s hair, David is restored as king. And nothing like this ever happens again, correct? Nope.
Just two chapters later, a worthless man named Sheba tries to stage another revolt. But the people would never follow this loser, for sure. Again, I submit: “All the men of Israel withdrew from following David and followed Sheba the son of Bichri; but the men of Judah remained loyal to their king, from the Jordan even to Jerusalem.”
There are other details in David’s story that could be added, but that suffices for an overview. His life is a stunning testimony to how fickle and emotional the masses can be and how the tide can turn as far as your popularity or acceptance.
And hence it is a stark reminder for followers of David’s most famous descendant, Jesus, to never put our trust or our meaning in worldly acceptance and popularity. We must be OK with being rejected. We must even embrace it at times.
In the account from 1 Samuel 30 above when David’s own men who stayed by him when Saul tried to kill him and lived on the run with him in undignified quarters, began to turn on him when their home was devasted and their families kidnapped, it says “But David found strength in the Lord his God.”
Let me encourage you today, Christian, to find strength in that, no matter what people around you are doing or saying. I fear that Christians in America, because we are not severely persecuted, get comfortable with being accepted. Maybe it’s why we want to be so inoffensive when politics overlap with truth. Or why we hesitate to share our faith. Or why we cocoon ourselves from the dark parts of culture so often.
Not only will we never understand David’s life this way, we will not live like Jesus. Who was despised and rejected by his own people, hometown and family. The goal of the Christian life is to be like Him. Let us do so by learning from David and Jesus how living a safe, sheltered, life free of being rejected is antithetical to mature Christianity.