Monday, July 9, 2018

King David pt. 1

This is the first of a 6 part series on King David. 

1 Samuel 8
David Series 1

About 500 years before King David,
King David Oleksandr Antonyuk 
 Abraham and Sarah begat Isaac,
Isaac and Rebekah begat Jacob,
and Jacob and his wives begat 12 
or so sons and grandsons,
who inherited the land which 
was once Canaan and who the 12 tribes of Israel were named after.

The 12 tribes were joined 
by a common heritage,
and a common faith in Yahweh, but they
each had their own ways and influences and leadership.

When any part of the land 
was invaded by outsiders,
which it often was, 
it was defended by a volunteer corps
of other Israelites which 
usually ended in defeat. 
Sometimes the people of the different tribes fought each other.

For around 200 years after the time of Moses and the Exodus
The tribes were overseen by charismatic leaders called Judges,

who were mostly prophets and spiritual guides, prophets, priests, and
sometimes warriors, who would be raised up by God when God felt that
the Israelites had learned their lesson and were ready to do good things.

God would talk to the Judges, and the Judges would
tell the people what God said,  and then sometimes the people
would do what they were supposed to and sometimes not.
In those days, Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.  Judges 21:25

Samuel, the little boy who was trained by Eli
would grow up to be the last judge.
When Samuel was getting old,
the people started getting worried because his children
took up his leadership and they were not good
“his sons did not follow in his ways,
but turned aside after gain;
they took bribes and perverted justice.”
And so the people of the 12 tribes demanded a king,
thinking that a consolidated leadership would make them stronger.
They’re reasoning: Everyone else is doing it.

You would think that God would like the idea of a King,
maybe the tribes would listen to the king.
Or be forced to listen to the king.
But God did not choose these people so that they
could be like everyone else.
It seems God liked the willful, independent groups,
and God is not thrilled with the idea of a King.
in talking to Samuel, God says:

Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights. 
 -- 1 Samuel 8:7-9

The Israelites have a cycle of idolatry,
serving other Gods instead of Yahweh,
getting into trouble and turning back to God.
But now their entering a whole other realm of idolatry,
the desire to have what everyone else has which
we can probably understand
more than golden calves.

And God goes on to warn them through Samuel,
what having a king will cost them in practical measures. 
A King will consolidate all their goods, their land,
their best people, and their power,
and the king will rightfully claim it as his own.
Kind of like the Pharaoh did before Moses.
The people don’t seem to learn do they?

But they still insist and God gives them a king.
And God not only gives them a King,
God jumps in with both feet, so to speak,
in the King business, God loves the king, God works through the king,
God even depends on the King , and God never says
 “I told you so” when things start to go wrong.

The Kingship of Israel  and the nation of Israel itself is a paradox,
a conundrum right from the start.
And this lays our groundwork for the entire story of David.

If you were to write a glowing history of your nation,
would you put this warning from God right at the beginning?
This tells us that God will be with his people,
but the story of a united Israel will not be a varnished and sanitized story.                                                        
The path to get to be king is not smooth for David
it wasn’t straightforward or clear, physically or emotionally.
And the path David takes while he was king was not
without major bumps and bruises.
And this is important to our understanding of
David, of Israel, and ultimately of God and God’s people.

David and Jesus
David is an important to the collective faith story of Christians, Jews,  and Muslims,
and David is especially important to the understanding of Jesus
how Jesus was perceived and what people thought of him.
It was very important that Jesus was descended from David,
and was in David’s line. Jesus is compared to David,
Jesus  appeals to David and cites his words and actions
in the Gospels.

And consequently, I think, David has gained super-human status.
Almost a divinity, which isn’t really supported by the story.
and isn’t helpful to understanding David or Jesus.

So David is not divine, but he is very important.
Outside of the direct stories of him David and David’s house
or lineage are mentioned in the Old Testament over 140 times.
Mostly in the prophets, in reference to the glorious time of David,
or the house of David where God’s promises would be fulfilled.

David  is mentioned 56 times in the new testament
Mostly it is Jesus is referred to as the Son of David.
This is equal to as many times as Moses is mentioned in the bible.

On the day of Pentecost, in Acts 2
the main point of the sermon that he gives to
the Jews in Jerusalem is to tell them that the one Jesus who they crucified
and who rose from the dead, was descended from David
and was the Messiah that David predicted.

Then in Acts 13, Paul gives a similar speech to the Jews in Antioch saying,
“After that, God gave them judges to rule until
the time of Samuel, the prophet. Then the people begged for a king,
and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin,
who reigned for forty years. But God removed Saul and replaced him
with David, a man about whom God said,
I have found David son o Jesse, a man after my own heart.
He will do everything I want him to do.’

 “And it is one of King David’s descendants, Jesus, who is
God’s promised Savior of Israel.”

Interestingly enough in Matthew’s Gospel and Luke’s gospel,
trace the lineage of David through Joseph
who both Gospels claim is not his actual father,
But these family things get complicated.

Regardless, it’s clear that for many Jewish people of the time,
Jesus authority rested in him being descended from  the house of David,
we’ll talk about where that expectation came from in our third week.

Now other expectations  of the this savior
were changed by Jesus’s actual life, teachings, and ministry,
but  the expectation that the Messiah would be in King David’s
line seems to have been non-negotiable for Jewish people.

The Jewish hope for the Messiah is tightly knit to the kingdom of David.

Based on these things, you can understand
why the disciples and others – and some people still today –
Look to Jesus to be a political leader, a warrior,
someone who fights battles with invaders and protects
his own people from outsiders.
You can also understand where the talk about
about the Kingdom of God, and Christ the King comes from.

Because those were what King David was.
He was a political leader, he was a warrior who was skilled on the battlefield.
He was honest and had integrity, and he was faithful to God,
but mostly he was there to lead a nation and defend it from outsiders.

The relationship between David and Jesus
comes through the promise that David received,
but it’s important that we don’t confuse the two.

David and Saul
Back to Israel’s first king.
When the people demanded a king,
God answered first with Saul.

Saul was very much like David in some ways:
he was specifically chosen by God,
he was tall and handsome (it says it in the bible!)
he was a great warrior, and a prophet.

He worshipped and praised God and
made great effort to follow God’s will.
and he was a popular leader for all his 20 or so years as king,
right up until his death.

So why did he lose favor with God and why did God
removed his blessing from him?

Saul basically did two things wrong:
One-- Before Saul and his army could go
into battle, they had to offer a burnt offering to God.
Samuel, who was authorized to do it, didn’t show up for seven days
and the army was getting bored and slipping away.
So Saul offered the burnt offering himself.
That was a no no.

Two: Saul went into battle with the Amalekites,
and God gave him strict orders:
God would enable Saul to defeat them,
but Saul had to “utterly destroy all that they have,
they had to kill both man and woman, child
ox, sheep, camel and donkey

Saul and his army went and destroyed all the people
but they took the king prisoner and they took
the best of the sheep, cattle, and lambs.
They figured, why waste it?
They would sacrifice it and give it to God as an offering.
That was a no no too.

Now, to me these infractions seem far less serious then
what David would eventually do.
Both of Saul’s infractions actually seem sensible and prudent
in a way, not selfishly driven like David’s.

But as I said when we were talking about the early books of Genesis,
at this time in their relationship,
the people are trying to figure out what
makes God tick and every bad thing is attributed to God
and so it makes God seem like a nuclear reactor at times.
Press the wrong button and you can inadvertently set off
a major explosion which is what happened here.

Basically, God did not like Saul’s attitude and he was out.
He didn’t feel like Saul was attentive to what God wanted.
God would look for another man after his own heart to be King.

Just a little interjection here on violence in these stories.
Because there is a lot.
When I read these stories for the first time and when I read them again recently,
it was really a struggle to get over the violence in them.
The heroes of these stories are extremely cavalier with violence
there are wars, revenge killings, people just get snuffed out
for saying the wrong thing  or being in the wrong place at the wrong time
and God not only doesn’t say anything critical about the violence,
he seems to be a part of it, condone it, supports it.
I mean Saul was actually in trouble for not being violent enough.

Two things to remember:
We cannot put our own sensibilities and abhorrence of violence
on the people in these stories.
Violence was a way of life then, it was like eating or breathing.
If you didn’t participate in it, you quickly died and were never heard from again.
violence was survival of self, and family, and race, and religion.

And  the second
We cannot put their sensibilities on our time either.
Some people read the Old Testament and say,
“Well, God sanctioned violence in King David and Saul’s Time,
so God sanctions violence now just the same.”
We can’t do that.

And I think that the reason we can’t put our sensibilities
on them and we can’t put their sensibilities on us
is because God has been moving humanity in a direction
of non-violence and tolerance 
and especially away from sacred violence.

Over the last 3000 years or so, we have mostly, sorted out
other ways than violence to sort out differences.

And I think the reason that we have come to this place
that we are today is because of Jesus.
Jesus was the king of peace, the forgive your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you savior, not the warrior.
Jesus was the Messiah who would deliver us with love not swords.
And Jesus bore the violence that humanity gave
on himself to show us that violence was no longer the way. 
Basically, things have changed.
And they have changed because Jesus has shown us God’s true heart.

So when we see the violence in these stories,
it’s best to take it at its face value and
not judge the characters or the way that the writers portray God
based on our current understandings.

So back to Saul. 
Saul has made God mad and shown that he
doesn’t get God and  doesn’t want to follow God’s rules.
So through Samuel, God tells Saul

 “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
    as in obedience to the voice of the Lord?
Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to heed than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is no less a sin than divination,
    and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
    he has also rejected you from being king.”

 (1 Samuel 15:22-23)
And God’s messenger, Samuel, and Saul never see each other again.

And pretty swiftly, God sends Samuel to Jesse’s farm with his horn of oil
and he’s told he is to anoint the youngest and most inexperienced
of Jesse’s son, the boy shepherd, to  be king.

Now when Saul was made King, he was immediately
presented to the Israelites as their leader
and it takes one short battle to rally the support
of the people around him and gain their loyalty.

But David doesn’t just become king instantly even after he’s chosen and anointed.
He first needs to prove himself to others,
and show God’s glory working through him.
and then he needs to defeat Saul who is still king
and who all the people, and the armies, think is still king.
David has to struggle with his loyalties to his country
and his loyalty to king Saul, to his friendship, his marriage,
his loyalty to God and his calling.

This anointing by God of this chosen King,
“A man after God’s own heart” as it says,
does not automatically reduce the struggles that David will go through.
Actually, the things that make David as great
as he is, his compassion, his loyalty, his honor, his
friendship, all those compounds the problems in becoming king.

And this is what makes the story of David so important and special.
The road to and through King is not easy for David,
even as the chosen one.

Walter Bruggemann, the brilliant Old Testament theologian, wrote this:

We do a disservice if we flatten ten the story into a report on what happened.
This odd narrative holds our attention precisely because the 
storyteller has another discernment to offer.
The narrator tor knows that human persons, even kings, are not summaries,
but are mysteries that must be taken one at a time and at a slow, reflective pace.
This narrator takes us inside David's family, even inside David and inside the interaction
between David and David's God. . . The public facade is broken by the depth of human reality.

This narrative, which focuses stunningly on this person,
does so in a way that lets David become a model or a paradigm for humanness.

. . .The continuing power of the narrative is that we continue to find
ourselves portrayed in this narrative about this pained man.
We know it is the truth about him and about us.
Walter Brueggemann. David's Truth (p. 41). Kindle Edition.

David is not a divine being as some people make him.
On the contrary, he is fully and wonderfully and  horribly human.
He encompasses all the greatness and terribleness of humanity.
He is capable of creating beautiful music that soothes and heals in one chapter
and he’s cutting off his own people’s heads the next. So does humanity.

He is king so he has been given all the power and riches he could hope for,
and yet his story is still marked by sadness, tragedy, guilt, and regret. So does humanity.
David's story is all the more sad because he is such a hero,
so perfect in some ways, so delightful, honorable, and decent.
And yet, even he, never escapes the tragedy of being human.

We know his story is the truth about him and about us.

And in the end, the story of David is the story of God.
God was against the thought of a king right from the start,
and surely God has not been in favor of some of our favorite institutions either,
But God is there throughout the story,
to help, advise, correct, direct, to tear down and build up.
God is there when we succeed and when we fail.

In the end, even though David stands guilty and punished,
confused and cold, defeated and heartbroken,
God never leaves David and David never leaves God.

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