Posts Tagged ‘david’

I am certain that David would have been a good coach.  After all, he was undefeated against the lions, bears, and giants.  It is worthwhile to spend time wrestling with this one who wrestled the likes of such beasts.  His is a great story, one full of tension and suspense.  Of espionage and passion.  Of power and adventure.  From a shepherd boy who watched over flocks to a king who watched over an entire kingdom, his story speaks to us.

No one would have expected this unknown, un-valued shepherd boy to become the shepherd of the nation.  In fact, he was deliberately sidestepped as a candidate for king.  His ruddy complexion and shepherd’s attire did not lead one to picture him in a king’s wardrobe.  Besides, he was the youngest of his brothers.  Yet he was still chosen to be king.  Why?  Because the key to David’s story is found in David’s God.  God did not make his decision by seniority, instead he goes against the grain of society and does a new thing.  Already, one is able to see that David’s accomplishments are not his.  God is their source and his plans may be different than we might expect.

David must have felt very small in a big world as he looked out over the creek bank at his opponent Goliath.  His brothers were angry at him.  Maybe they were embarrassed at his naive willingness face impossible odds.  But, in the midst of fear, threat, and defiance, David rises up from the creek-bed with bold faith and conviction.  He stakes his life on the power of his God.

If there were odds-makers present at this bout they would have predicted a mismatch.  David’s primitive sling against Goliath’s shining armor.  His youth against the giant’s size and experience.  Again we are reminded of the one who is the key to the story.  It is not luck nor skill that slays the giant, but the direction of God.  The odds-makers were right, this was a mismatch – the giant never had a chance.  God is able to give victory against overwhelming odds.

Eventually, David became king.  His winning ways continued as he led his country.  But, he is not without faults.  Even though he is master over all that he sees, he wants more.  His story conveys the reality that even heroes make mistakes.  He becomes more concerned about his reputation than about life or truth.  Who would have thought that a national leader would be guilty of selfishness and greed?  Who gave biblical heroes permission to be like the rest of us?

On the scene again is David’s God, he has something to say about behavior.  David then remembers that there was a day when he was more concerned about God’s reputation and less concerned about his own.  He can not erase his past.  All he can do is rely on the mercy of God.

By life’s end, David accumulated a long list of successes.  Yet, just as real in his life were his weaknesses.  On his own, David is neither strong nor capable.  But, during the crisis and changes of life – God is working.  Time and again, God intervenes in situations where his people are threatened.  As we wrestle with David, we get to know David’s God.  He reveals who he is.  He wants us to be dependent on him.  May we join David in song to the one who is able to deliver.


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The Untame, Unsafe God

Even people who are unfamiliar with scripture know both Goliath and Bathsheba.  Both these names connected with David.  There appear to be obvious differences; Goliath an ugly giant, Bathsheba a bathing beauty.

But as Eugene Peterson points out, there are also similarities.  Both Goliath and Bathsheba bring David into a context of testing.  Both put David in a situation that reveals his heart.  The giant demonstrates that David is more impressed with the invisible god than the visible giant.  The woman demonstrates that David is capable of evil.  Both stories reveal that God is active in his life.  The first in David’s trust in the power of God.  The second in David’s reliance on the grace of God.  Both Goliath and Bathsheba remind us that this story is not really about David at all.  This story is about God.

II Samuel chapter eleven brings us the Bathsheba story.  It begins “then it happened.”  David is now king and Israel is out conquering.  The one that God saw in the shepherd’s field has become the one enabled by God in the battlefield.  Then, we come to a turning point for Israel, a turning point for David.  While others are out risking their lives, “David stayed in Jerusalem.”  While his armies march forward in the Ammonite wars, David walks back and forth on the roof.  From his vantage point, he is master of everything he sees.  Including the wife of his servant Uriah.  By the end of the chapter eleven we find that “the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the Lord.”  In chapter twelve he acknowledges it.

As human eyes overlooked David’s potential while he shepherded sheep, they overlook his sin while he shepherds Israel.  In contrast, the seeing eyes of David’s God did not overlook him as a future king, nor do they overlook his sin while on the throne.

Like David, we would like a god who could make our bad decisions go away.  We prefer a god that behaves like an errand boy we call on to get our car to start, make our golf games pleasant, or beef up our checking account.  We call him when someone hurts our feelings and we want revenge.  We want God to be like roadside assistance, our own version of AAA, to call on him when in trouble.  We are not first to think of God in such terms.  At times, David appears to think that God is tame and domestic.  Like David, we don’t want him to be involved in our affairs.  We can work those out on our own.  Like David, we do not want a God who forgives, instead a God who accommodates our sin.

This is why Mark Buchanan has claimed that even though we haven’t killed God, we have domesticated him.  We try to create a convenient and predictable and tame God.  The God we conjure up is nice.  He pampers us.  We want him to be comforting – actually what we want is for him to be comfortable.  We would like for him to be our ace.  To call him in from the bullpen when we need a reliever.  To come out and get for us another save.

But God is not comfortable.  He is not accommodating.  We cannot expect him to be our errand boy.  He does not fit into our box of definitions.  He is on the loose.  I think of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.   Upon finding out that Aslan is a lion, Lucy asks “Then he isn’t safe?”  “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver, “Who said anything about safe?  Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good.”

We may want to tame God, domesticate the faith, but our efforts fall short.  We can decorate the nursery with a Noah’s ark theme but that does not eliminate the disaster of the flood.  No wonder Adam and Eve try to hide from God.  No wonder Jonah runs the other way.  No wonder Peter denies that he knows him.  No wonder David works so hard to cover up his sin.  We do not know what this surprisingly wild God will do next.  Still, we trust in what we do know – He is good.

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There is a section in the Old Testament where we follow David around in the wilderness.  He stayed in the wilderness of Ziph, he stayed in the wilderness of Maon, he stayed in the wilderness of Engedi.  Following David, we leave one wilderness only to find another.  David is on the run.  His life is in danger.  His only safety appears to be in strongholds.  While on the run, David is willing to lie to the priest, steal food, even pull out his sword for survival.  This is not our David of choice.  This is not the way we envision biblical heroes.

Eugene Peterson points out that David’s wilderness story is surrounded by two better known wilderness stories.  Between forty years in the wilderness where God’s people are struggling between worshipping idols and the Living God and forty days and nights where God’s son is struggling with the temptation of using God or submitting to God.  In both, worship is at stake.  In both, survival is at stake.  It should be no surprise that in David’s wilderness story – worship and survival are also part of the plot line.  It may be a surprise to find out how important food becomes in each of these wilderness stories about worship and survival.  (God provides manna for his people in the wilderness.  Jesus is tempted to turn stones into bread in the wilderness.  David steals consecrated bread while hiding in the wilderness).

 This wilderness story finds David on the run, seeking food, fighting for survival.  David is a renegade, a rogue, hungry, wild.  We don’t want a wild David.  We don’t want a renegade David, running for his life, lying to the priest, eating consecrated bread, removing Goliath’s sword from the holy place.  We want a David writing psalms and building the kingdom of Israel, a David shepherding sheep and slaying giants.  We prefer a domesticated David in a tame wilderness.  But we get neither.  We get a renegade David in an unpredictable wilderness.

David’s story is one of death, hunger, and foolishness.  But also one of wealth, feasting, and holiness.  Of rescue and betrayal.  Of friendship and enemies.  Of escape and refuge.  Of espionage and prayer.  But no matter where his story takes us – David’s story, at every juncture, is about God.  This is not a God that we have figured out.  Not one that we can predict.  No matter what we are hiding or where – he knows and sees.  No matter how surprising our sins – God can surprise us even more.  David’s story demonstrates that God is not in our control.

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It will soon be Advent.  Barnes and Noble is decorated for Christmas.  Seasonal music is playing in the background.  I walk the aisles and scan the shelves.  I notice a book titled Self Matters and wonder if another book to promote interest in self is really necessary.

Another book catches my attention, The Sheep Book: A Handbook For the Modern Shepherd by Ron Parker.  Ron and Teresa Parker raise sheep for fine long wool to be sold to knitters and wool spinners.  In the forward Garrison Keillor writes, “city life has bred in me an instinct to travel in herds while keeping my distance and avoiding eye contact.”

I think to myself that this is a good time of year to think about shepherds and wonder if those shepherds who witnessed the first Christmas could have used a handbook like this.

I think about David.  Like Ron and Teresa Parker, David worked with sheep.  There is every reason to believe that David was a fine handler of sheep.  He risked his life against lion and bear to protect them.  Yet, his genius is not that he knows sheep but that he knows the shepherd.  In David’s best known writing he states “the Lord is my shepherd.”  In the same writing he says “surely goodness and mercy will follow me.”  I find it amusing that the Parkers have named a set of triplets “Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy.”

I think about Jesus.  In the Gospel Jesus is introduced as “Son of David.”  Eugene Peterson says rightly that in order to get the most out of the Jesus story we must first soak ourselves in the David story.

Jesus calls for sheep.  His sheep know his voice.  He leaves the ninety and nine to find the one lost sheep.  He rejoices when the one is found.  He is willing to lay down his life for his sheep.  But, unlike the Parkers, Jesus is not really talking about sheep.  His interest is obvious – he loves people.

Garrison Keillor is right, most of us have been bred for keeping a distance and avoiding eye contact.  But I am less interested in traveling with herds than with traveling in the right direction.  Advent stands in contrast to keeping distance or avoiding eye contact by directing us toward Christmas.  Christmas is not a generic holiday.  Christmas came among specific people with names, identities, and occupations.

At this time of year, we witness a great deal of effort from the masses.  In spite of this effort, it appears to be no more than a winter festival of sorts to provide an economic boost.  A festival of consumption.  Even the word Christmas is inserted or avoided for marketing purposes.  Reduced to consumers, people measure their worth by what they give or get.  Now that I think about it, there could be long lines of people waiting to read a copy of Self Matters.

Specific people with names, identities, and occupations are still vitally important at Christmas.  But even more, it is about God.  It is not enough to borrow the Christmas portrayed by the masses and insert God.  God is where Christmas begins.

We celebrate that God became one of us.  That the Word became flesh.  The theological word for this is Incarnation.  Incarnation is God’s way of communicating his love to us.  He lived among us.  He looked us in the eye.  He called us.  He laid down his life for us.  He came to where we are to save us.  He invites us to participate in his ways.

The Incarnation is our paradigm for ministry.  In the Incarnation God loves so much that he came to us, lived with us, walked with us.  Incarnation communicates for us both God’s message and his style.  The implications of the Incarnation call us to take Christmas more seriously.  It is of interest to us that Jesus sends his followers into the world as he was sent.  As the Lord took on human flesh, he calls his people to take on the world.

Our response to Christmas should be to reflect it.  Both in message and style.  We join God’s way not by announcing good news from a distance, but by walking alongside specific people with names.  Not by slick marketing strategies, but by a willingness to look people in the eye.  Christmas is not a generic holiday.  Instead we are reminded to become involved in the lives of others.  To listen to what they have to say.  To see through eyes other than our own.  To be a reflection of Christmas.

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