Monday, July 16, 2018

King David 2

1 Samuel 17
July 15, 2018

This story of David and Goliath is one of the most familiar stories in the whole bible.
It’s recognizable even to those who don’t know the bible at all.
Goliath is a term used on its own to mean something big and formidable.

Usually, we hear this story on its own, and it’s mostly for the kids.
Although someone gets his head cut off at the end. The kids love it!
And of course the kids love it, because it’s about a little kid overcoming the big strong bully.

And the moral of the story is that with God’s help, 
even little ones can overcome big problems.
Which is a great moral. And that moral is not wrong. It’s in there. 
But there’s more.
But when we isolate the story and relegate it to just the kids,
it can kind of get domesticated and safe.
Little kids, school yard bullies.

This was not just a kid’s story, it’s a very adult story.
King David
Rae Chichilintsky
 and it’s not isolated, it’s part of a whole tale:
 the beginning of David’s public life as it were.
And there is a whole lot of stuff in the story of David
that gets us to this part of the story, 
so let’s review that first.

To review from last week:
The Israelites ask for a king.
God is not crazy about the idea.
But they insist and he gives them a king anyway.

The first King of Israel was Saul.
By all accounts, he was a good king.
I’m sure we would want him to be evil
or wildly disobedient, but he wasn’t.

He tried to follow, but he did a couple 
of things that didn’t sit well with God.
First he made a burnt offering himself instead of  waiting for the appointed holy person.
And then when he defeated the Amalekites, 
he spared the king and some livestock
even though God told him to destroy everything.
Basically, God didn’t like Saul’s cavalier attitude towards his requests.

So Saul was out as King.
And God quickly chooses another king – this time it’s going to be good.
A man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14)
That second King would be David.

David was from Bethlehem in the region Judah and descended from Judah,
who was a son of Jacob, the one who wrestled with the angel and,
and who was the son of Isaac who was the son of Abraham and Sarah.
David was the youngest of eight sons of Jesse of Bethlehem
or eight sons and two daughters depending on which book you read.
He was a branch of Jesse – a term which should be familiar.

It might sound like he had an impressive lineage going back to Abraham and Sarah
but remember, everyone who lived in Judah had the same impressive lineage.

God makes Samuel go out again with his horn of oil, like he did for Saul
and he sends him to Jesse’s house, under the guise of
celebrating a sacrifice and dinner with them.
Samuel knew the king would be one of Jesse’s sons.
And at first he assumes it would be the oldest, tallest, and strongest son.
But God tells Samuel not to pay attention to his looks or their height.
Because the Lord doesn’t look at things that people look at.

So Samuel goes to each one and waits to see if he
is the one that God would choose, until there’s no one left.
Samuel has to ask Jesse, “don’t you have any more kids?”
and Jesse goes, oh yeah, I’ve got one more out back taking care of the sheep.
And they go get him and it’s David.
“That’s the one”, God says. “Anoint him.” And David was anointed by Samuel as King.

The writer works to make David as insignificant as possible.
Jesse was a common farmer and David was in charge of the sheep.
Remember from our talks at Christmas, shepherd was the lowliest of occupations.
And David was the youngest of Jesse’s many children, so he was in line for nothing really.
And he was so insignificant his father almost forgot about him
didn’t think to call him in for the special dinner guest.

And once David was chosen by God and anointed to be king,
he still went back to his lowly job as shepherd. But God’s plans were in action.
Only God and Samuel and David and us know the truth about David right now.
David would still have to overcome a lot to take his rightful place as king.

Saul is still king, but he can feel God’s spirit was not with him anymore.
He was feeling tormented, depressed, gloomy. He needs a diversion,
He decides he wants someone to play him music.
Coincidentally, someone suggests that the 
farmer Jesse’s son David plays a beautiful lyre.
He could be helpful. So David plays for Saul and Saul loved him.
Saul makes David his official musician and then promotes him to
his official armor bearer, the one that would take the Kings shield
and sword out to battle for him. Kind of like a caddy for deadly weapons.

So unbeknownst to Saul and, it seems even oblivious to David,
David enters Saul’s court, and his army, and also his heart.
And that is where we pick up the story we heard today.

The Philista, or the land of the Philistines, is  a country that butts up to the land of Judah.
They seem to have been a thorn in the Israelites side for a long time.
Earlier in First Samuel, chapter 5, the Philistines captured the Ark of God.
The Ark of God was the thing that held the tablets of the 10 commandments.

It is the same Ark which, in 1936, Indiana Jones 
would later save from being captured by the Nazis.
But we’ll talk more about the Ark of God at length next week.
So, The Israelites got the Ark back from the Philistines after a while,
but the Philistines were not done with the Israelites.
This time they were back with Goliath, their ringer.

An eight foot tall giant of a man who was well armed, who no one could physically defeat,
and who was also, apparently, an expert at verbal intimidation and taunting.

Now David’s older brothers were involved in the fighting,
And presumably David was the armor bearer for King Saul,
although the story says that David was stuck checking on the sheep for a lot of the fighting.
AND David’s father tells him to bring bread and cheese to his fighting brothers.

Obviously feeding people and sheep was all that his father thought that he could do.
When David came to give them the bread,
he heard Goliath taunt everyone and how afraid everyone was of him.

David also heard this important piece of gossip:
People were saying that whoever could defeat Goliath,
Saul would give that man his daughter as a wife,
and he would let his family live tax free.
David knew a good deal when he heard it:
Marry a princess and don’t pay taxes.
There’s a little bit of a mercenary in David too.

David’s oldest brother tells David to go away, kind of “let the real men do the work here”
and “Don’t you have sheep to check on?” like some older brothers do.

Then David, this over-confident boy tells Saul that he can defeat Goliath.

He tells King Saul he fights wild animals as a shepherd, why not this guy?
Saul is like, Naah.
And David says, sure I can. I’ve fought wild bears and lions. How hard can this be?
And then David, who would be Saul’s future adversary,
shares this prophetic line with him:
“the Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear,
will save me from the hand of this Philistine.”
So Saul says, what the heck, go ahead and try.

Then Saul puts his own armor on David.
David was once the armor bearer,
Now the Saul has become armor bearer for the true king.

But David takes off the armor because it’s too confining.
He takes his staff and five smooth stones from the creek
and put them in a bag and with his sling in his hand he confronts the giant.

After some serious taunting from Goliath,
David meets him with the same assurance as when he talked to King Saul,
He says: “The battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand”

The actual battle between the big bully and the innocent boy takes only two verses.
“As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him.49 Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground.”

Again, at every turn, this part of the story lets us know how insignificant and even uncivilized David is:
Remember, we are the only ones who know David’s secret identity
as the anointed one of God. Samuel is gone and God isn’t telling.

All his family thinks all his good for is feeding people, his sheep and his brothers.
He’s motivated by the King’s offer of his daughter and no taxes.
He shirks the armor and the weapons of the upper class soldiers,
he’s more comfortable with a slingshot.
And he tells everyone he’s accustomed to fending off wild animals.
Not a gentleman, David is used to the wild.

The story tells us not to trust appearances.
The next leader of Israel will come from nothing.
He will be raised from the dust of the earth like Adam.
God will breathe life into him and he will become something.

But this is not just a little boy against a giant story.
This is a much larger story about the marginalized against the tyrants.
This is a story about the lower class against the ruling class.
The powerless against the powerful.

The story does not give honor to civility or decorum or humility
or those things that are privileges of the establishment.
The story gives honor brash nervy-ness and raw chutzpa.
Those with the guts to get things done.

And this is important to remember this as the story moves on to the next stage
where this battle against the establishment that David battle
gets a little more personal and complicated and
as David builds his own army and defends himself against King Saul.

After his victory over Goliath, David is celebrated the people start chanting,
“Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”
Which just proves to make Saul angry.
And Saul the powerful king has it out for the young David from that day on.

David returned to playing the Lyre for King Saul
Saul could feel the spirit of the Lord had left him and he suspects it was with David.
Saul randomly throws a spear at David a couple of times and misses.
But Saul thought better of it and made David the commander of a thousand troops.
Saul figured that the Philistines would take care of David for him.

Basically, because of his fear and jealousy,
Saul put David at the head of the army that would eventually take over.
Saul uses his own military to kill his foe.
Again the story looks ahead, because it sounds a lot like something
 that David would do later when he becomes King.

And innocently,  David infiltrated Saul’s house and family too.
Saul eventually kept his promise to David to give him one of his daughters as his wife
thinking that he could keep a close eye on David and also having a wife
would distract David and he would be more likely to slip up and die in battle.
David was married to Michal who fell deeply in love with him and was devoted to him.
When Saul sent troops to come and arrest and kill David,
Michal would help him escape.

And soon after David’s battle with Goliath, he meets Jonathan, Saul’s son
the one who would be heir to Saul’s throne.
They become fast and deep friends, sharing a pact to protect one another.
Eventually, Jonathan would refuse to assassinate David, as Saul urged him to do.
and several times he would help David escape from Saul.

Some believe that the relationship between David and Jonathan was a romantic one,
and if that helps anyone get into the story, it’s fine with me.
But I think whether their relationship was sexual or not is kind of irrelevant.

It shows the same thing that is shown by Michal’s love for David.
Saul’s house was crumbling from the inside out.
Saul’s own children turn on him and opt to help out the man who he believes is his enemy.
Again a foreshadowing of what would happen in David’s own life.

Through all of this, David is still eating with Saul and
playing the harp for him. Saul loves him like a son at some moments,
and at the next he’s dodging Saul’s spears.

Until David finally decides that he needs to escape
and Jonathan helps him do it, covering for him at a dinner party.                      
After that, David is on the run, hiding in caves and going
through towns making friends with some towns and plundering others.

David’s brothers join his band of merry men and he also gathers other people,
“those who were in trouble or in debt, or were just discontented.”
David ‘s army of the poor and the disenfranchised numbers 400 it says,
while Saul’s army is over three thousand.
The powerless against the powerful.

But at no time though during this time, is David out to get the throne.
David has an army and he does pillage some non-Israelite villages, 
but he never pursues Saul.
He only runs from Saul. 
It’s Saul’s own fear and jealousy of David which drives the animosity.
David is always loyal to Israel and to his king, sometimes foolishly.

The story is  told that Saul goes into a cave to relive himself,
Even royalty have to go to the bathroom  I guess.
And little did Saul know that David and all his men were hiding in the back of the cave.
David had the perfect opportunity to kill Saul and end the whole thing.
But all David did is sneak up and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.

When he was at a safe distance, David shows Saul the  part of his robe he cut off to show him that he had the opportunity to kill him and didn’t take it David says:
Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? 10 This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 

When David points this out to Saul, you can hear Saul’s inner battle in his response.
He is genuinely touched. He calls David his son. He realizes that he has in some way
given birth to this young man, and he is touched.
Saul admits his sin, he realizes how honorable David has been to spare his life.
Saul even says that he knows that David will be king of Israel.
And yet, he still feels compelled to chase David down.

Finally David decides to hide in the last place that Saul would look.
He hides in Philista, the home of the mortal enemies of the Israelites, the home of Goliath.
He lives there for a year and the king trusts him.
But when the Philistines go to battle with Saul’s army again, the king decides not to let David fight worrying that he
and his army will defect.  So David sits out.

Saul visits a fortune teller in Endor,
The fortune teller summons Samuel up from the dead.
He’s not happy to be disturbed by Saul.
Samuel reminds Saul of what he did to upset God and he tells Saul that God would deliver him and
the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.

Within a week, the Philistine army face the Israelites.
They kill Jonathan, and two of Saul’s other sons,
They wound Saul and Saul eventually takes his own life.

David is very sad at both of their deaths, and he mourns mourns them with a song.

David becomes the King of the southern Kingdom,
Another one of Saul’s sons becomes the king of the northern kingdom
after seven years of being separated, they had a
kind of pre-arranged gentlemanly battle of hand to hand combat,
where bunches of more people die, but less of David’s men die
so when he was thirty years old, around 15 years or so
after being chosen and anointed by God, David finally became King of Israel.
Some say that Shakespeare got a lot of the ideas from his plays from this story.

This whole beginning story of David,
from God’s choosing of the youngest shepherd boy,
to his defeating the giant philistine, to David’s sneaking around in caves
with his army of debtors, prisoners, and disenfranchised ones.
Up to Saul’s own  eventual defeat, the point of the story is the same.

This is a story told by the marginalized,
to a marginalized community, about the marginalized.
The hope and promise, is that even the lowliest of their own will be raised,
and will become powerful and strong – the strongest even.

And it tells them that in the process, the little guy should not lose their integrity.
They should not respond to anger and vengeance with anger and vengeance.

It’s also a story of the powerful’s unquenchable desire
to destroy those that they feel are encroaching on their power.

Israel was not a super-power at this time, or any time in its ancient history.
Even as a Kingdom, Israel was a small country,
It was constantly being pushed around and persecuted and
taken advantage of by nations stronger than it was
And the Jewish people are a people who were constantly
being persecuted and bullied by others.

And most scholars place these books as being written during the exile.
A time when Israel was taken over and the Jewish people
 forcibly moved from their homes into
other countries to live as slaves or refugees.

This story was more than just a story about David’s victory over his own adversaries
This is about the victory of the marginalized over the powerful.
It’s about how God stands with the uncivilized and the little guys.

This is the story of the last becoming first.
This story tells generation after generation, that with the help of God,
that the marginal ones can become the legitimate holders of power.

Some might say that this is just royal propaganda,
written by the royal family to show how great David was.
But we know the rest of David’s story.
Things start to go wrong for David pretty quickly.

So this story of the little guy achieving power is also  a warning.
The marginalized can become powerful, but power comes with its own problems and its own temptations.

Whether it’s the power of king, or a president, or a mayor,
or the head of the church, or head of a department,
or head of a family: the more power, the greater the temptation.

And the sin of the powerful comes with its own consequences.

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