Beloved King David and His God
Read: 1 Sam 16:6-8, 1 Sam 18:1-5, 2 Sam 3-6
The David story begins perfectly – he’s small, insignificant, without honor, and without power. He’s the youngest brother in a big family and his father doesn’t even consider inviting him to the “which-one-of-my-sons-should-be-king party”. He’s just a meek young boy in the field caring for the family flock.
Samuel chooses David exactly because of his lowly status but it doesn’t take long before his status changes. He slays Goliath and with the bloody head of the giant in his hands, history is made! The crowds go wild. Beloved! Beloved! The legends about David spread like wild fire.
He is beloved by Jonathan – beloved by Michal – beloved by the crowds, outcasts, Samuel, and the LORD. Everyone is cheering for David.
We get the impression God was really excited about David – that God imagined the humble shepherd boy imaging the humble love of God to the world, bearing witness to the Incorruptible Love of heaven. If only David could stay a shepherd boy….. if only he could turn his ears away from the songs the women sing about him and tune out the adoration of the masses. But his rise is unstoppable and as soon as King Saul dies, his thirst for the throne is unquenchable.
After the death of Saul, Saul’s son Ishbaal takes the throne and rules in Israel for two years. David has a huge followership in Judah, but each man wants the entire kingdom. Sadly, Saul’s wife Rizpah and his daughter are caught in the crosshair and the story becomes rather violent. Michal is ripped from her husband who follows behind them weeping all the the way. That’s awful! I sure hope David never rips a woman away from her poor unsuspecting husband again. In 2 Sam 2:8-17, David and Ishbaal select 12 warriors to have engage in a small battle to determine a winner. Each man stabs another and all 12 fall dead. Productive. Good work team.
Finally in 2 Sam 4, all of David’s enemies are conveniently dead — they’re assassinated by David’s servants and David is mortified — so he slays the servants who did the killing. Wouldn’t want people to think you killed all of the contenders for your throne. Everyone is dead, so we’re off to a good start. David has a red carpet rolled out for him straight to the throne room. On his way, he engages in one last epic battle against the Philistines and David is so successful that the Philistines flee and abandon their idols. Now where have we heard THIS story before? A battle involving idols being carried across enemy lines?? OH RIGHT — the beginning of this entire monarchy business – 1 Sam 4 and 5!! David takes the Philistine Idols and then he is reminded of the real ‘idol’ he wants to have with him as he heads off to the grand parade of his glory and fame. David comes riding into Jerusalem with the Ark of the Covenant behind him and probably the gods of the Philistines too. Is that the end of the story? David is the best king ever and he rules with gentleness and goodness and everyone loves their neighbour? No. Hard no. God doesn’t want to be carried into David’s palace to be put on display as a validation of David’s grandeur. During the great parade, the cart carrying the ark is jostled and when a man reaches out to protect the Ark from falling, the man falls dead. Apparently God can literally be a kill-joy but God doesn’t want to go. So does David repent and realize his irreverent folly? No. He simply sends the Ark away and continues with his best life. Once David hears word that the people who were caring for the Ark are experiencing a bit of prosperity, he sends for it to be brought to him. So now that’s it — David has his kingdom and he has his God at his side like a good Caddy – offering David tips for shooting his best shot.
What we’ve learned so far about this “becoming like the nations” and “getting a King for ourselves” business is that God doesn’t like it. It’s not a good idea. Samuel knew it, Rizpah and Michal likely figured out it was a bad idea — but apparently we need to settle in because it’ll be a while before the people with the power get the memo.
So God settles in too. He doesn’t want to be carried into David’s battles or placed in a stone house, made into an idol, turned into a product ensuring the prosperity of a corrupt King — but he knows how the story must end. And so he goes. He enters into the system. He agrees be taken into the house of David. The King of Heaven agrees to follow the story all the way down to its bitter end, through the ages, into the full depth of human cruelty and corruption. He enters the system with a young shepherd boy, and eventually lets the system exhaust itself entirely upon Him while he hangs on a Roman Crucifix, “King of the Jews” ironically inscribed above his lifeless body.
Consider this: God entered the system with a Good Shepherd but none of the shepherds stayed good. They each grew into giants – wolves – predators. God remains Good — God most often, remains unnoticed, like young David out in the field while his brothers are measured up by Samuel.
In Ezekiel 34: 1-4,10-11 God speaks through the prophet Ezekiel:
The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.
11 “‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.
In John’s gospel Jesus responds to this history of corruption and violence by the shepherd kings of Israel, saying, “I am the Good Shepherd and all who came before me were thieves and bandits and the thieves come to steal and kill and destroy. I come that they may have life and have it abundantly. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11-12
Our Good Shepherd came to let the system run itself out on him. He came to mirror back to the world its own violence. He came to lay his life down for his sheep and begin a new way of being human. The communion table is the table of that Shepherd King. It’s the table the world has not recognized. You are invited, weekly, to eat at this table but you must remember that it’s a downward journey and there’s no seat of honor and no podium — the host of the table will not hurt you or work you to the bone or force you to build a mighty empire for him – this Shepherd offers you a new way, offers you rest, offers you a love that’s incorruptible.
Have you witnessed someone become corrupted by power?
Have you ever been corrupted by power?
Have you ever been loved with an unselfish love?
How could you walk in incorruptible love in your neighbourhood this week?