Three Kings

My brother–in–law is a king.


It happened this way: he was involved in aid work in the Philippines. Some villagers asked him to write to the government on their behalf. They wanted the land taken from them back. Privately he thought their chances were nil but he gave it his best shot anyway.

To his surprise the government agreed. The villagers were so delighted they decided to make him their king. My sister travelled with him for the ceremony and asked what it meant to become a ‘datu’. ‘Our datu is our king,’ she was told. ‘He can go to Buckingham Palace and eat cucumber sandwiches with the Queen of England.’ My brother–in–law has not tested the earnest conviction of his loyal subjects on this score, possibly put off by Wikipedia’s insistence a ‘datu’ is merely a petty tribal chief.

The elevation of my brother–in–law to kingship was on my mind this week as I was considering the life of King David. In my current work–in–progress, I’m looking at the nature of armour–bearing and the covenant relationship involved. David was Saul’s armour–bearer at one point, so they would have been in covenant relationship before it broke down entirely.

That reminded me of my brother–in–law who was part of a covenant community until the relationships broke down entirely. His name too is David and like his Biblical namesake, he’s wandered abroad since that time — and eventually become a king.

In the last post, Charles commented with a brilliant quote from George MacDonald: It is only when the man has become his name that God gives him the stone with the name upon it, for then first can he understand what his name signifies. It is the blossom, the perfection, the completeness, that determines the name: and God foresees that from the first because He made it so: but the tree of the soul, before its blossom comes, cannot understand what blossom it is to bear and could not know what the word meant, which, in representing its own unarrived completeness, named itself.

I’m always on the look–out for what names really mean in order to understand the covenants that govern and affect them. So, as I thought about this quote and the parallels between the life of King David, my brother–in–law, and King David, the second monarch of Israel, I was thoughtful. (I hasten to add my brother–in–law has never ordered anyone into the front line of battle to get rid of them!)

As I was considering David, armour–bearer to Saul, it finally dawned on me what made him ‘a man after God’s own heart’. That’s something that’s always baffled me. David was far from perfect. He was a liar: think of the priests at Nob or the time he pretended to be mad in the town of Gath. He was a murderer: think of Uriah. He was weak: think of what he did when his son committed incest and rape — nothing. He was proud: against advice, he started a disastrous census of the fighting men.

His flaws made him, in many respects, no different from the rest of us.

What on earth made him ‘a man after God’s own heart’?

As I was writing about armour–bearing, it finally dawned on me: he was a covenant–keeping man. And God is a covenant–keeping God.

The Book of Judges contains a series of stories about covenant–breaking and the dire consequences of doing so. According to KC Pillai, Sisera broke the fourfold covenant he made with Jael which included a covenant of salt. The almost barbaric story of the Levite and his concubine is a tale of escalating covenant violation as one breach opens the way for another: from covenant of salt to threshold covenant to the covenant between the tribes of Israel. By the end, the virtual genocide of the tribe of Benjamin has occurred.

After the time of the judges passed, Saul is appointed king. He should have learned the lesson about covenant violation, but no.

Only David keeps the covenants he’s made, time after time at cost to himself. One day Saul almost fell into David’s hands when he went into a cave to relieve himself. David’s men urged him to kill Saul, but David refused, obliquely referring to the covenant between them as he did. God, a covenant–keeping God, saw David’s sacrifice and established a covenant with him: that of salt. There would always be a king from David’s line. That promise reaches fulfilment in Jesus.

Society today is like the time of the Judges. Everyone does what is right in his own eyes. So how do we keep covenant? Do we? I wonder.


  1. You are full of surprises Annie, now we find out you’re related to a king. Well, we know you’re related to King Jesus, but you’re also related to an “earthly king.”

    Your insight into names and their meanings — but not just what the name itself means, but how they relate to our destiny never ceases to amaze me. If only we could find out what our name is; if only we could discover what name God has inscribed upon the stone.

    I find myself wondering if perhaps our destiny is somehow related to doing the things where we feel the most fulfilled; where we are using our God-given gifts to the greatest advantage – where we are living “in our sweet spot” to quote Max Lucado in his book, “Cure for the Common Life.”

    • Lynne,
      I’m sure it’s right that we feel most fulfilled when we enter our destiny and use our God-given gifts to their greatest advantage. I’m equally sure that there are, for many people, almost insurmountable obstacles in the way and that most of us give up before we get there.

  2. Alison Collins

    I wonder if some of us (myself included) are sometimes trying too hard to be ‘something’, instead of submitting with a servant heart to becoming a small thing in its right place. As John the Baptist said, ‘I must decrease, and He (Jesus) must increase’. Certainly some are called to rise up to high places, but always with this same attitude. I think we sometimes find destiny by looking in the small places rather than seeking prestige and honour.


    • Hi Alison

      If your name meant small, this would be fine. But I think we are all called hold Jesus’ hand all the way to the top of the mountain (yes, it will be crowded when we all get there). I think it’s a temptation to look in small places, just as much as it is a temptation to seek prestige and honour. We tend to look in small places once we get disappointed. We deal with the disappointment by lowering our vision rather than finding God’s perspective on what went wrong.

      • Maybe I should have said, ‘I hope it will be crowded when we get there!’ about the top of the mountain. When we’ve found our ‘right place’ or ‘sweet spot’, we rejoice when others reach theirs too, instead of wondering (with a tinge of jealousy), ‘What’s wrong with me?’

      • Alison Collins

        Hi Annie,

        You may have something here. I suppose you know that my name does actually incorporate a meaning of small. Have to think some more about this. What do you mean exactly by ‘the top of the mountain’?


        • The ‘top of the mountain’ is like the place where Moses saw God face to face or the three disciples saw Jesus transfigured. In the latter instance, that didn’t occur until just after Simon was given the name Peter. (A very special name that has both a name covenant and threshold covenant governing it.) But again, it’s about names.

          • Alison Collins

            If it’s about getting closer to God, then i am good with that.

  3. Very interesting about David honouring the covenant – and those who didn’t!

    • That’s one thing David really did do – even after Saul and Jonathan died. He looked for members of both their households to take care of, thus honouring the covenantal obligation to take care of the other person’s family in case of their death.

  4. Interesting reading as always Annie. I love the way you look at things so insightfully.

  5. I enjoyed this, Annie. “God save the King!” Do any of your brother-in-law’s royal perks extend to you…cucumber sandwiches and royal teas, etc.?
    The covenant of salt is something I’ve heard of but haven’t studied. Briefly, I tried to learn what it is by Google-ing. It is an ETERNAL covenant.
    Before looking it up, my thoughts took off from everyone doing what is right in their own eyes to the sexual immorality of our day. It ignores, defames, breaks, etc., the marriage covenant – which isn’t eternal, but meant to last in this life. It’s MORE THAN sad to do what should belong only to this covenant, and is to be set apart as holy, lightly – without this covenant. Treating sexuality lightly and wrongly, for example by participating in “serial monogamy,” shows that we enter covenants intending to break them. I’m greatly concerned about this. Profaning this covenant is destroying our youth, with sickness, sadness, madness, despair, and children born to persons not in an actual covenant with each other; instead of bringing life to them in fulfillment, joy, responsibility, growth, and happier children born into a more secure (hopefully) union.
    The mountaintop you spoke of? This recalled what David said (sang), “He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet: and setteth me upon my high places.” Psalm 18:33
    In Jesus’ love,

  6. THere is an institution called Covenant Keepers whose sole design is to honour the covenant of marriage. If only more people did that society might be a better place as it would if people honoured covenants in everyday life.

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