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No, David!

April 29, 2013

Incredibly, I am still on the correct day for my daily Bible reading.  This hasn’t meant that there are some days when I have five days to make up for, but as of today, I am dead on.

I’m not sure if any part of the Bible is an easy read.  However, it’s the readings of the past couple of months that really baffle me.  I cruised through Judges with lots of carnage and gruesome deaths.  There’s warrior women–Deborah and Jael, Samson, Gideon, and all sorts of other judges who acted as prophets and intermediaries for God in the time between entering Canaan (the Promised Land) and the appointment of kings.  Then there was Ruth and Naomi and Boaz, who were in the royal lineage of King David (and Jesus).  Saul was appointed as Israel’s first king by Samuel, but he failed to follow God (his failing–not waiting for Samuel to make his sacrifice to God. Things went down hill from there).  Samuel then anointed David, a shepherd boy who sang and killed Goliath.  Saul was jealous of David and David took to the hills to hide in caves.  Eventually Saul and his sons (including David’s best friend, Jonathan) were killed in battle and David took his place as king over a briefly unified Israel.

Whew.

DSCN1979To be honest, I don’t get King David.  He’s one of the most revered people in the Old Testament, considered Israel’s “best” king.  Yet David messed up, over and over again.  When David messed up, he messed up big–killing one of his finest warriors because David had impregnated his wife.  David’s children were out of control–one of his sons, Ammon, raped another of his sons, Absalom’s, sister  (possible because of the multiple wives and many concubines.  Ammon wasn’t actually related to Tamar, Absalom’s sister).  While David was “very angry” (2 Samuel 13:21) with Ammon, according to the Dead Sea Scrolls, “he didn’t punish his son, Ammon, because he loved him, for he was his firstborn” (2 Samuel 13:21).  As a result, Absalom took matters into his own hands and eventually killed Ammon.  David was furious with Absalom and forbid him from ever coming into David’s presence (2 Samuel 14:22).  Absalom then slowly started turning people away from King David and developed quite a following.  He conspired to kill David and to become king of Israel.  David fled from Absalom, not that much unlike how he fled from King Saul years before–again heading for the hills and hiding in caves.  And that’s where I stopped.

The first and seconds of the Old Testament (Kings, Chronicles, and Samuel) remind me how little I understand of the context of the Old Testament. Why was Saul’s sin so much worse than David’s?  Additionally, it was David who desired to build God a home, thus “institutionalizing” Judaism.  God wouldn’t let David build a temple for the Ark of the Covenant (yep, that thing in the Indiana Jone’s movie) because there was too much blood on David’s hands, but God promised David that his heir would build a temple.  David misunderstood God as much as Saul did, it seems, in that he thought God could be made small enough for a place and contained there.    It’s hard for me to understand why things held the importance they did–while I am sure the Jews of the David’s time, the prophets, and Jesus’s time could understand the significance much better.    The first and seconds are a good reminder for me that the Old Testament was written for a specific people in a specific place (check out Peter Enns Inspiration and Incarnation for more on this).  Why should I expect to understand it all?

The reason I struggle the most with King David is because he was so human.  I want my Bible heroes to be just that–heroes.  I want perfect people who don’t kill women’s husbands.  I want a king whose son doesn’t try to overthrow and kill him.  I want the loyal David to always be around– the David who wouldn’t kill Saul even though he had ample chances and reasons–the David who brought his friend, Jonathan’s, crippled grandson into his house to live—the David who refused to kill the great Jewish warriors who tried to kill him.  Instead, I see all of David’s flaws, all of his terrible humanity.

That says so much about me, doesn’t it?  To be honest, I don’t think it’s just me who has this desire to have perfect heroes.  I think of all the entertainment magazines/shows/websites whose job it is to expose the imperfections of those we look up to.  I think of all the media a fallen sports star gets when he/she messes up (Tiger Woods, anyone?).  Even within the church, we expect our church leaders and pastors to be perfect.  We don’t want them to be human and have character flaws.  Why is that?  What’s our obsession with hero worship and perfection?  Why do we love to watch reality TV shows that demonstrate how people fail?  Why are there websites devoted to cake disasters (which are pretty funny–but then I realize some of my homemade birthday cakes could easily end up on that site and it’s not quite as funny)?

DSC_8513

It looked like nice, but not like the rocket ship it was supposed to be, like my middlest pointed out repeatedly. Doesn’t matter–my littlest loved his cake wreck rocket ship birthday cake.

We really aren’t comfortable with grace.  If we accepted grace, we would have to accept the fact that we aren’t perfect nor is anyone else perfect.  Grace means we look at the cake disaster site and imagine the laughter that accompanied those cakes.  We look at those cakes and see love and generosity, instead of wondering what in the world that person was thinking.  When we see someone else’s humanity, we hug them and draw them close, instead of feeling better about ourselves because we aren’t like them at all.

One of the strengths of a chronological Bible is how it handles the first and seconds and the prophets.  In those books, more than most, it varies greatly from our traditional Bible.  After David confesses his guilt to Nathan about killing Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, the chronological Bible immediately follows David’s confession with Psalm 51–the Psalm David wrote after confessing.  I leave you with a part of that–a favorite of mine.

Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love.

Because of your great compassion, blot out the stains of my sins.

Wash me clean from my guilt.  Purify me from my sin….

Purify my sins, and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow.

O, give me back my joy again; you have broken me–now let me rejoice.

Don’t keep looking at my sins.  Remove the stain of guilt from my heart.

Create in me a clean heart, O God.  Renew a loyal spirit within me.

Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.

Psalm 51: 1-2, 7-12

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