Posts tagged ‘David’

Who Has the Power?

Credit: Pikrepo.com

Christians declare that God has all power. We live, however, like we have the power.

A few weeks ago on this blog, I recounted the famous battle between David and Goliath. When David goes to do battle with this terrifying and towering titan, there is no question over who truly has the power to win this battle. As David says to Goliath:

You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down. (1 Samuel 17:45-46)

God has the power to win this battle. And He demonstrates His power through David.

But then, David becomes king over Israel. And, at first, David continues to acknowledge and believe that God is the One who has all power and is the source of his power as king. Early in his reign, when David is readying his army to fight the Philistines, we read:

David inquired of the LORD, and He answered, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move quickly, because that will mean the LORD has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” (2 Samuel 5:23-24)

The Lord is the One who will lead the strike on the Philistine army. He is the One with the power.

But by 2 Samuel 11, things have changed – drastically. David now clearly sees himself as large and in charge. He sleeps with a woman named Bathsheba, who is not his wife, and kills her husband Uriah, who serves valiantly as a soldier in his army, to cover up his affair. Instead of relying on God’s power to win his battles, he abuses his own power for his own pleasure and pretense.

Power, it seems, comes with a problem: when we get it, we have no idea how to use it. When David has no power as a shepherd boy fighting a giant, he does better than when he has massive power as a king who can get anything – or, as in the case of Bathsheba, anyone – he wants whenever he wants. Power without wisdom and righteousness is not profitable. It’s pernicious.

The apostle Paul writes very personally about power:

In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Paul fears that, if he was ever to get too much power, he would wreck everything in his conceit. Therefore, he boasts and delights in his weakness, for his weakness allows Christ’s power to work through Him. And Christ is much better at using power than he is.

Andy Crouch writes of power:

Power at its worst is the unmaker of humanity – breeding inhumanity in the hearts of those who wield power, denying and denouncing the humanity of the ones who suffer under power.

This is certainly how David uses his power with Bathsheba and Uriah. But what about power at its best? Crouch continues:

The Father’s love for the Son and, through the Son, for the world – is not simply a sentimental feeling or a distant, ethereal theological truth, but has been signed and sealed by the most audacious act of true power in the history of the world, the resurrection of the Son from the dead. Power at its best is resurrection to full humanity.

God is good with power. He uses it for us and not against us. He demonstrates it through us and not merely over us. Power that rests only in humans destroys humans. But power that is from God can restore humans.

God is good – and gracious – with power. This is why we can celebrate every time we pray:

For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

July 26, 2021 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Looking for a Messiah

The story of David and Goliath is a favorite of children’s bibles. It features a shepherd boy named David and a Philistine giant and nemesis of Israel named Goliath who fancies himself invincible. The Israelite army is so terrified of Goliath that no one will sign up to fight him. David, however, indicates his willingness to fight Goliath to King Saul, who tries to outfit David in his armor for the battle, only to find out that he is a 42 long while David is a 34 short. So David goes to fight Goliath with nothing but a sling and some stones. But with these unassuming homespun tools, the little boy takes the big bully out:

Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, David slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. David took the Philistine’s head and brought it to Jerusalem; he put the Philistine’s weapons in his own tent.  As soon as David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with David still holding the Philistine’s head. (1 Samuel 17:49-51, 54, 57)

One of the fascinating features of this story is not just that a young boy kills a towering warrior, but how David does it – he does it by striking Goliath in the head. The author of 1 Samuel seems to be quite taken by this because he uses the word “head” or “forehead” five times in these verses. Goliath’s head is so central to the image of David’s victory, that he carries the head around!

When Adam and Eve fall into sin, God curses the couple, but He also curses the one who tempted them into sin – Satan, who appears in the form of a snake. God warns Satan that there will come an offspring of Eve who will one day defeat him. But what is striking about God’s curse is not only that this offspring will crush Satan, but how he will do it. God says to the snake:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. (Genesis 3:15)

The offspring of this woman will crush Satan’s head.

This promise from God led the ancient Israelites to look for the fulfillment of this promise – someone who would come to save them from the sinful mess of this world by crushing the head of their enemies. They centered their hope around what they called the “Messiah,” which in Hebrew means, “anointed one.” The Israelites were looking for someone chosen and anointed by God to save them.

One chapter before the story of David and Goliath, God chooses a new king of Israel, who, unbeknownst to Saul, is Saul’s replacement. Who is this king? The giant-slayer David. God sends his prophet Samuel right before David kills Goliath to anoint him as the next king of Israel:

Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed David in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon David. (1 Samuel 16:13)

Just a chapter later, after becoming Israel’s new “anointed one,” David crushes the head of Israel’s greatest enemy with a stone, which begs a question: Could David be the one? Could he be the Messiah?

We know from the rest of David’s story that he was not “the one.” The one who crushes Goliath’s head with a stone is crushed by his own sin when he has an affair with a woman who is not his wife and then has her husband murdered to cover up their relationship. David may have crushed the head of Goliath, but the head of the ancient snake was still spitting its poison of sin and death. The Messiah who would crush Satan’s head was still to come.

So often, when we see amazing people do amazing things – as David did with Goliath – we wonder: Could they be the one? Could they be the doctor who wipes out cancer? Could they be the politician that fixes our nation’s ills? Could they be the soulmate who mends our heart? Could they be the financial advisor who makes us rich? Could they be “the one”?

David’s story reminds us that there is only one who is “the one.” Placing our hopes in the wrong one will eventually and inevitably lead to disappointment and anger. Placing our hopes in Christ, however, will lead to salvation and peace. He is the one we’re looking for.

May 24, 2021 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Sheltering-In-Place

orange-and-gray-painted-roof-under-cloudy-347152.jpg

Credit: Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels

As COVID-19 continues to sweep through our nation, infections are increasing, some hospitals are being overwhelmed, doctors and nurses are working exhaustingly extended shifts, and a good portion of our nation has been ordered to “shelter-in-place” to try to stymie the spread of the virus.

In 1 Samuel 22:1, a young man named David is being pursued by Saul, who is the king of Israel. Saul has become jealous of David who has proven himself a valiant warrior by killing a nemesis of the nation of Israel, a giant named Goliath. When King Saul realizes his own nation respects this young warrior more than they do him, he becomes inflamed with jealousy and makes repeated attempts to kill David, but to no avail. He escapes each time. David, fearing for his life, is eventually reduced to hiding out in a cave called Adullam. While in this cave, David pens the words of Psalm 57, which opens:

Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in You I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has passed.

David is sheltering-in-place in a cave, trying to avoid the disaster of Saul’s jealousy. It had to be hard. But David knows something. David knows that, ultimately, it is not a cave that is his shelter. It is the Lord. He is David’s refuge. And He will be with David through and beyond his disaster. His disaster will pass. The Lord’s presence, however, will never pass away.

During this disaster of COVID-19, remember that – even as you shelter-in-place and, perhaps, go a little stir crazy because you’re itching to get out – your shelter, ultimately, is not in where you’re sheltering. It is in who your shelter is. Your shelter and your refuge are in the Lord. And He will be with you through and beyond this disaster. This disaster will pass – hopefully, soon. The Lord’s presence, however, will never pass away.

And that’s great news.

March 30, 2020 at 5:15 am 1 comment

The Price of Mercy

King DavidIf I was David, I would have been tempted to say, “The devil made me do it.”

When “Satan rises up against Israel and incites David to take a census of Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:1), David can’t resist the opportunity to figure out just how big and powerful his empire really is.  David, it seems, has become more prone to glorifying his nation than he is to glorifying his God.  But the Lord is not pleased.  So “He punishes Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:7).

David may be easily conned by folly, but, in this instance, he is also a man of quick repentance:  “I have sinned greatly by doing this.  Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant.  I have done a very foolish thing” (1 Chronicles 21:8).  God answers by giving David three options for punishment.  Israel can (1) endure three years of famine; (2) endure three months of attacks from surrounding enemies; or (3) suffer three days of attacks by the Lord Himself against Israel.  David chooses option three, citing this reasoning: “Let me fall into the hands of the LORD, for His mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into human hands” (1 Chronicles 21:13).

God gets to work.  In a flash, 70,000 people die.  David’s census numbers must be amended.  God then sends His angel to destroy Jerusalem, but “as the angel was doing so, the LORD saw it and relented concerning the disaster and said to the angel who was destroying the people, ‘Enough! Withdraw your hand’” (1 Chronicles 21:15).  It is at this point that it becomes clear that what David has said about God is true of God:  His mercy really is very great.  Three days would have been more than enough time for God to destroy everything.  But instead, God preserves most things.

David, however, is not convinced that God’s tour of destruction has ended.  So he cries out to God, “Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be counted? I, the shepherd, have sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? LORD my God, let Your hand fall on me and my family, but do not let this plague remain on Your people” (1 Chronicles 21:17).  To a God who David has just called “merciful,” David offers his blood.  David may say God is merciful, but he doesn’t really seem to trust in His mercy.

But God does have mercy – even for David.  Indeed, God, mercifully, does not ask for David’s blood.  But He does ask for an altar and a sacrifice: “Then the angel of the LORD ordered Gad to tell David to go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite” (1 Chronicles 21:18).  So David goes to Araunah who offers both his land and all the materials needed as a gift to David so he can make his offering.  But David refuses Araunah’s gift: “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing” (1 Chronicles 21:24).  David deems it unacceptable to offer to God a sacrifice that costs him nothing.

But why?

Abraham didn’t seem to have any problem offering God a sacrifice that cost him nothing when, in place of his son Isaac, he offered a ram caught in the thicket – a ram that God Himself provided.  And the very sacrifice to end all sacrifices – the sacrifice of God’s Son – cost humanity nothing even as it cost God everything.  The best sacrifices, it seems, are the ones that come as gifts.

God acts mercifully toward David when He tells him to go the field of a man who will offer everything David needs to make a sacrifice, but David can’t quite bring himself to receive the gift.  He’d rather pay.  David may call God merciful, but again, he doesn’t really seem ready to rejoice in His mercy.

It is true that sacrifices can be costly for those who offer them.  Indeed, sometimes, sacrifices should be costly for those who offer them.  Such sacrifices can stretch us and help us grow in our faith.  But sacrifices can also come as free gifts.  And it’s not wise to despise a gift.

How often do we, like David, confess God to be merciful as a matter of doctrinal truth, but then refuse the very mercy that God tries to give?  We’d rather pay.

God received David’s sacrifice, even though David did not receive Araunah’s gift: “The LORD answered David with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering” (1 Chronicles 21:26).  But I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if rather than saying to Araunah, “Let me pay!” David simply said, “Thank you.”  I can’t help but wonder if God would have been pleased with David’s sacrifice just the same.

The apostle Paul writes, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1).  A holy and pleasing sacrifice does not require a payment from us.  Rather, a holy and pleasing sacrifice can simply flow from the mercy of God.

So the next time God is merciful to you (which should be in no time at all), remember to receive His mercy.  You don’t need to pay.  You can just say, “Thank you.”

May 9, 2016 at 5:15 am 1 comment

The Law of Retaliation

"Saul Tries to Kill David" by Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld, 1850's, Wikimedia Commons

“Saul Tries to Kill David” by Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld, 1850’s, Wikimedia Commons

This past weekend in worship and ABC, we discussed the importance of friendship.  Every person needs a friend for encouragement, for challenge, and for consolation. In the words of Proverbs 17:17:  “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  For good times and for bad, everyone needs a friend.

Perhaps the most famous example of friendship in the Bible is that of David and Jonathan.  These two guys far more than just bar buddies.  1 Samuel 18:1 describes their relationship like this:  “The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David.”

Though David and Jonathan’s friendship was strong, it was also fraught with peril.  Jonathan’s dad, Saul, the king of Israel, hated David and wanted to kill him.  But Jonathan was so deeply devoted to his friend that he went to bat for him, telling his father:

“Let not the king sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have brought good to you.  For he took his life in his hand and he struck down the Philistine, and the LORD worked a great salvation for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by killing David without cause?” (1 Samuel 19:4-5)

In my sermon, I talked about how Jonathan, in order to defend his friend, appeals to the lex talionis, a Latin phrase referring to the “law of retaliation.”  This law is classically expressed in Leviticus 24:19-20:  “If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him.”  This law, of course, is not meant to promote violence, but to contain it.  The lex talionis stipulates that “the punishment must fit the crime.”  If someone takes your eye, you can’t take his arm.  The example I used in my sermon is, “If someone steals $100 from you, you can’t sue him for $1 million because of emotional pain and suffering.”

The way Jonathan uses the lex talionis in 1 Samuel 19 is especially fascinating.  For rather than appealing to the lex talionis responsively to punish a crime, he appeals to it preemptively to prevent a crime.  Jonathan’s essential argument to his father is this:  “You can’t kill David!  The law of retaliation says you can only hurt someone if he first hurts you!  And David hasn’t hurt you!”

I have gained a deep appreciation for Jonathan’s argument to his father because Jonathan essentially turns the lex talionis into a catch 22.  You can hurt someone, but only if he hurts you first.  Someone else can hurt you, but only if you hurt him first.  This means no one can hurt anyone because no one can make the first move to hurt someone because, by sheer chronological necessity, there would be no prior just cause for such an injury, thus breaking the lex talionis!  Far more than regulating violence, the lex talionis prevents it.

This use of the lex talionis is nicely in line with Jesus’ commentary on the rule:  “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:38-39).  Jesus essentially says, “Even if you are unjustly wounded, never give anyone a reason to use the lex talionis on you.  Self-control, even in the midst of terrible adversity, is paramount.  If you don’t hurt someone else, then that other person has no ground on which to stand if he hurts you.”

What tensions and quarrels do you have with others?  The best way to end them is to refuse to give the person with whom you are in conflict any reason to retaliate.  Your cool and collected response to someone who is angry may just be what diffuses a fight, ends a conflict, and restores a friendship.

June 10, 2013 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Be Reconciled Today

This weekend in worship and ABC, we continued our series “Five Family Fiascos!  Is There Hope For Us?” with a look at the fiasco of familial estrangement.  Certainly the scene is familiar:  one family member betrays, embarrasses, or even inadvertently hurts another family member and retaliation ensues.  But this retaliation does not take the form of a fistfight or of cutting words or of a heated demand for an apology.  No, this retaliation takes the form of a cold shoulder – a refusal to speak to, or sometimes to even acknowledge, the other person.  And the longer this goes on, the further these two family members drift apart.  This is sad story of estrangement.

The story of King David and his son Absalom follows this all too proverbial pattern of estrangement.  As we learned this weekend, after Absalom’s brother Amnon rapes their sister Tamar, Absalom becomes furious at his father for not stepping in and meting out justice against Amnon in the face of such shocking wickedness.  Absalom subsequently becomes estranged from his father.  Indeed, we read, “Absalom lived two years in Jerusalem without seeing the king’s face” (2 Samuel 14:27).  Two men, two years, in the same town – and they never so much as catch a glimpse of each other.

Tragically, it’s not as if they didn’t want to see each other.  We read in 2 Samuel 13:39:  “The spirit of the king longed to go to Absalom.”  But David defies his spirit’s yearning.  He never goes to see his son.  Indeed, he even prevents his son from seeing him.  “He must not see my face,” David says just verses later (2 Samuel 14:24).

Eventually, the estrangement between father and son becomes too much for Absalom to bear.  He rebels by staging a coup against his father.  Battle lines are drawn, strategies are devised, and, in the end, David proves victorious – but only after Absalom is killed.  When David hears the news that his son has been killed and the threat to his throne has been removed, a wave of remorse and regret comes rushing over the king:  “O my son Absalom!  My son, my son Absalom!  If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son” (2 Samuel 18:33).  Interestingly, this is the first time that David calls Absalom, “my son.”  Before this, he referred to him only as, “the young man” (cf. 2 Samuel 14:21, 18:5, 12, 29, 32).  But now he longs for the relationship he could have had.  Now he dotingly calls Absalom, “my son.”  Now he wishes, “If only I had died instead of you.”  But now it’s too late.  Trading his own life for Absalom’s life would do David no good.  Absalom is already gone.

Certainly one of the weighty lessons of this story comes in the utter tragedy of leaving relationships estranged.  Indeed, this story ends on a terribly tragic note – with a wailing monarch riddled by regret.  And yet, through David’s tear-choked words, we hear a distant note of hope.  For though David cannot die in the stead of Absalom and restore their broken relationship, there is someone who can.  And there is someone who has.  For when our sins separated us from God, God traded His Son’s life for our lives so that we would no longer be estranged from Him, but reconciled to Him, even as Paul declares:  “We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10).  God is in the business of reconciliation.  And His reconciliation is truly the most challenging and most glorious reconciliation of all – for He reconciles imperfect people to His perfect Person.  Will you, as an imperfect person, seek reconciliation with other imperfect people from whom you are estranged?   Remember, the remorse of estrangement will always be heavier than the challenge of reconciliation.  Be reconciled today.

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April 26, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment


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