Monday, August 13, 2018

King David 6

1 Kings 1:1; 5-31; 38-40; 2:10-12
August 12, 2018
David 6

One more drama for David to deal with.
Who will succeed him as King.

Adonijah thinks he should be king because he’s the oldest,
and it says he was handsome, so he was obviously qualified.
And he starts to behave as if he was already king.
He hosts a dinner which, only kings should be  able to do in the kings house,
and he invites all of his brothers except Solomon,
the other son in contemplation for leadership.
and he leaves out Nathan too, David’s advisor and tattle tale.

There seems to be some sort of unspoken feeling or suggestion that
Adonijah might kill those people that he sees as rivals
who he doesn’t invite to this meal of his which is not out of the question.

So Bathsheba either reminds David, or tries to trick David into believing,
that he had promised the throne to Solomon and just forgot about it.
And Nathan comes and complains to David that Adonijah
King David
Youram Raanan
has tried to become king without David’s blessing.

And David apparently doesn’t like the presumptuous nature
with which Adonijah has assumed the throne,
So he tells Nathan to make a public display and have
Nathan anoint Solomon and declare Solomon king.

10 “Then David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of David.”
And that was the end of the life of David.

Solomon does become king, and he carries on David’s legacy in many ways.
Not in the least of which was to kill his brother
Adonijah, and then Joab, David’s military leader who had supported Adonijah,
and then Shimei the relative of Saul who had taunted David,
all within the first two chapters of being king.

Solomon also went on to build the temple to put the ark of the covenant in
and several other palaces and buildings that apparently made Jerusalem
into a very impressive city.
1 Kings pretty much gushes about Solomon’s wisdom and abilities to lead
and his financial and business skills and how he made
Israel prosperous in many ways, and how he developed a navy
and a huge military presence, how all his officials ate well and dressed well
and looked great and how impressed everyone was with all that.
How many people came from other nations to give him gifts of gold and food
and weapons, and ivory, apes, and peacocks.

Now there was a little bit of slavery and forced labor to build this wealth
and to get all this done, but most of them were from other countries, so I guess it was okay.

But then it says he had 700 wives and 300 concubines,
which I think even David would find excessive, but the problem was that many of
were from different countries and religions and because of that,
Solomon ended up turning away from the God of Israel and trying out other gods.
It says:
For when Solomon was old . . .
his heart was not true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.”

So this does is give us an answer about why the scriptures hold David up so highly.

All through David’s life, through his sin and punishment, through his
tragedies and trials, through success and failure, he never left God,
he was always true to Yahweh and  never led his people away from the God of Israel.

But was David truly “a man after God’s own heart” as God claimed he was looking for?
I thought about this a lot this week and I was really having  troubled to sorting it out.

I’ve read a lot of other people’s reflections on David and what they think
makes him great and memorable and worth our time.  They seem to struggle to figure it out too.
It usually comes down to some personality traits that they think we should try and emulate:
He loves people deeply, he has courage, he trusts in God, he repents when he’s wrong,
he consults God, he tries to honor God, he gave everyone a loaf of bread and raisin cakes, the list goes on
but not for long.

But I found it really hollow to just highlight just the good examples and avoid the horrible examples.
When he’s selfish, angry, jealous, self-righteous, impulse driven,
                and especially how he turns to violence to solve his problems.
The good things don’t seem to overcome the bad things because they’re so intertwined.

There are a couple of times in the story where he was the best in the room.
But there are more than a couple where he was the worst.
And I don’t think it’s just cultural differences or the differences in the times that make it seem like that.
So I think that David’s story is not in just here so we 
can break down his character to some admirable traits
that we can try and duplicate in our lives. It has a much deeper purpose than that.
(and that goes for all the rest of scripture too.)

I told you when we started this, that we kind of have to ignore the violence
in order to not get overwhelmed by it and not see the story behind it.
But truly, the violence in the story overwhelmed me at times.
Maybe, in the end, we have to really pay attention to it.

Of all the big heroes in the bible, Abraham, Noah, Moses, David by far is the most violent.
Maybe the violence in this story is not just a background noise,
maybe the violence is at the center of David’s story.

There’s a school of thought that says that the whole of the bible is a story of violence,
sacred violence, violence that is a human tendency, but which we attribute to God.
And the scriptures are the story of God weaning humanity off of sacred violence.

David’s story might just be so violent because it’s a story repudiating violence.
And it’s about David coming to the realization that violence 
and war and domination is not a solution.
Just think about the whole story:

David starts out as a shepherd, peaceful, humble, child, innocent.
And his first act, the act that puts him into the public spotlight 
and after a time, in the running for king,
is an act of violence.

He kills Goliath, the famous Philistine.
It’s a tale of one-upmanship dominating the dominant.

And Not only does he kill Goliath with his sling, he cuts off his head.
Which is pretty gruesome, even for those times.

Before he kills Goliath, he tells them that he didn’t need Saul’s armor.
That God’s protection was enough for him.
But after he kills Goliath, he takes Goliath’s
armor as a prize and puts it back in his tent.
Once the innocent boy didn’t need armor,  now he does.

And then go a little bit forward to David’s time running from Saul,
Near the end of his time in the wilderness, what does he do?
There’s that weird part of the story where David goes and hides in Philista,
the land of the Philistines the rival enemies of Israel.
Not just that, he goes to the city of Gath the home of Goliath. 
And David serves the Philistine king.

There he and his men use violence, they incite fear into others, they pillage nearby towns.
David in essence becomes the Philistine king’s special weapon.
Once the Philistine’s great weapon was Goliath, now it’s David.
The story is showing the pattern of violence and domination.
Because he used violence, David has become what he destroyed.

Then when David becomes king, he does great things, but this violence always catches up with him.
He’s told he can’t build the temple because there’s too much blood on his hands.
He has to constantly defend his position on the throne, and he does it with violence.

Then he brings that same violence into his own personal life.
Violence and domination is the core of his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah.
Using sexual violence and actual killing to get what someone else has.
And this violence of sex and power repeats itself in his family.

When Nathan brings David his prophecy from God, he warns him,
You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword,
and have taken his wife to be your wife,
and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.
Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house.
Violence only begets more violence.
And David’s children repeat his father’s sins.

Amnon’s violence to Tamar, Absalom’s violence to Amnon, and then finally
Absalom’s attempt to take the kingdom away from his own father David.

And when David was running from Jerusalem to escape Absalom,
Shimei comes out of his house an starts throwing rocks at David.

He yells to him, “Out! Out! Murderer! Scoundrel!
The Lord has avenged on all of you the blood of the house of Saul,
in whose place you have reigned;
and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom.
See, disaster has overtaken you; for you are a man of blood.”

Shimei is the one to see through this mask of violence and domination.
And getting a glimmering of the truth, David tells his people to leave this man be.
That maybe God is the one who is encouraging him to yell.

And finally, in the end of that battle, with Absalom and David,
David’s army wins, but his favorite son is struck down in the process.
A moral of this complicated story is that in war and domination no one wins.

This theory of violence in scripture says that violence is a human habit
which we have attributed to God and which God has been working
for all of existence to try and break us of.

And scripture, with the many examples of disturbing violence,
is the ultimate critique of the harm that dividing humanity into
them and us and then using violence to dominate
and using God to justify those acts.

The story of David shows us that even the chosen ones, the faithful, the loyal, and devoted,
can fall into the devil’s trap of using violence to dominate and overcome the other.
And even the righteous and repentant can find it nearly impossible to
extract themselves from that path once they have started down it.

We can relate to this story as a country.
Even as we can celebrate our great achievements in human rights, 
and liberty, freedom, and the arts and science,
It has been impossible to untangle our existence from the violent
and dominating history that formed us:
From the genocide of Native Americans, to African Slavery,
to the long history of wars, segregation, and economic violence.

David is not simply a hero because he had some good personality traits and was a successful king.
But neither is David simply a villain because he used the violence which was so prevalent in his life and times.

He is one of us, one of humanity, who has fallen into this trap repeatedly.
And as he still remains faithful to God, and aware and awake, and repentant,
through learning the hard lessons which God has been trying to teach humanity,
He doesn’t check out, or shut God out.  He feels his faults.
We learn about ourselves from knowing his tragedy.
As a follower of Jesus, I find this a better lens to see David through.
Because David is the King of Israel,
but Jesus is the Prince of Peace.
If David is a mirror of humanity as it is,
Jesus is a fully-realized humanity as we could be.

All of the charisma, and wisdom and love, and passion, and creativity,
without the domination and violence.
Jesus rules by serving, not by striking back,
he leads by standing firm and turning the other cheek, by forgiving
and finally, by showing the true price of violence to us
by being the victim of violence,
and dying himself at the hands of others on the cross.

David is a whole, complicated life. A metaphor for humanity.
David shows us ourselves throughout his life, and the scriptures allow us to be witness to it.
He bears both the fruits of the Spirit :
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness
and the works of the flesh:
fornication, impurity, licentiousness, enmities, strife, anger

And in spite of him taking the wrong turn down the path domination and violence.
God doesn’t leave him. God loves him,
And maybe more impressive, God seems to like him.

Which is good news for us.
As a whole people, we will bear both the fruit of the spirit and works of the flesh.
And we have and will no doubt continue to turn down the wrong path
and be a party to violence and domination.

But God will never leave us,
we will still always be people after God’s own heart.

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