2 Samuel 21: No more fighting on the frontlines for you!
As the story of David’s leadership begins to wind down we come to a time when things aren’t all that inspirational. Uprisings are put down; there’s an ugly story of the Gibeonites revenge against Saul’s descendants, and a series of one-paragraph accounts of significant battles with the enemies of Israel. Of course, for those involved these are all very big deals (especially for those executed by the Gibeonites!). For us, though, they’re just historical events. David’s army is still fiercely loyal to him but his power as a warrior diminishes with age. When he’s nearly killed in battle his men forbid him from leading the fight as he’s done for decades. He’s simply not up to hand to hand combat anymore and is more valuable as God’s chosen leader than he is as a soldier. In other words, this is a transitional time for David. His advancing age doesn’t hinder his ability to lead, but it does compromise his ability to fight. For each of us, as it is for David, life has times of transition. Generally, we don’t like that very well, but circumstances have a way of dragging us forward, even if we’re kicking and screaming all the way. God isn’t finished with us, but the role we play changes. Let’s be aware of what’s happening and cooperative with God as we move through the various chapters of our lives.
Take Away: As one period of life ends another begins with a new set of challenges and opportunities
The danger of little insults
1 Samuel 25: Blessed be your good sense!
The encounter between David and Saul at En Gedi results in a sort of peace between the two. David isn’t ready to return home, but Saul isn’t pursuing him for the time being. Under the cease-fire David is thinking about more pressing needs, like food! In the vicinity there’s a successful farmer who’s shearing his sheep. This is more than just a farm chore. It’s a big feast, a celebration of the success of the farm. David sends a few men to humbly ask the farmer to make a donation to his troops. The result is insult and denial. This infuriates David. There have been many times when he could have just taken some of Nabal’s sheep. Instead, his men have treated his shepherds with respect and kept their hands off of Nabal’s property. In his anger, David is on his way to raid Nabal’s farm and take revenge by taking his life. Meanwhile, Nabal’s wife, Abigail, hears what’s happened. She leaps to action by gathering a huge load of supplies and hurries out to meet David and his men. She humbly greets David and then presents a three-part argument as to why David shouldn’t do what he intends to do. First, she’s giving him a gift of many supplies. Second, her husband is a fool who’s not worth his effort. (By the way, what kind of a parent names his son, “Fool” anyway? No doubt, Nabal is in great need of counseling!) Third and most importantly, she tells David that taking revenge is beneath him as a man of God. Isn’t it interesting that David wouldn’t kill Saul who was seeking his life, but now, because he’s insulted he’s about to kill the fool, Nabal. Which is worse, having a powerful person try to put a spear through you or having a stupid person say a stupid thing to you? The trouble is that we’re often like David here. The things that get us off track aren’t when we deal with some major, obvious issue. When that happens we turn to God for his help, trusting in him. However, when it’s a small thing, just an insult or a thoughtless driver who cuts us off in traffic — well, we’ll just handle that ourselves; maybe teach them a lesson or two. We need people like Abigail around who can remind us to show some good sense in those “little things” that are such a danger to us.
Take Away: In some ways little things are more dangerous to us than the big things.
Not exactly the Sermon on the Mount
Judges 15: I swear I’ll get even with you.
Samson decides to marry a Philistine. Along the way he gets mad and kills thirty men for their clothing to use in paying a lost bet. He gets married, but when he’s absent for a while, her father gives his bride to the fellow who was best man at the wedding. Once again, Samson gets mad and burns their fields. The Philistines retaliate by killing his bride and her father. True to form, Samson swears to get even. Isn’t this a pleasant story (not!)? Interestingly enough, we’re told at the beginning of this story that “God was behind this.” What’s going on here? How can God be involved in feuds and retaliation and the like? I think I know the answer. Samson is one of the most selfish and self-absorbed people in the Bible. Apparently, his parents are so impressed that the birth of their son was announced by an angel and since he came with special “handling instructions” they have never said “no” to him in his life. The Lord knows that Samson will never consider taking on the Philistines for the good of his people. All he’s interested in is Samson. Therefore, there has to be something in this for Samson and a great motivator in his life is revenge. It’s strange, I know, but it seems God accomplishes his purposes by manipulating Samson into doing what the Lord wants him to do in the first place. Had Samson been a man with some moral integrity the account of his life would be quite different. Still, the Almighty has his way with Samson even though the byword of his life is “revenge.”
Take Away: Better to cooperate with the Lord in doing what he wants done, but, ultimately, God’s purposes will be accomplished either way.