Day 92: 2 Samuel 16-18; David in Exile

The narrative of today’s reading tells the story of David’s exile from the city of Jerusalem, the capital and his palace.  As we heard yesterday, Absalom has betrayed king David, as was foretold by the prophet Nathan, and now David is once again on the run from his enemies.  Fortunately for David, he has some experience with this and is in a much better position right now to be able to handle being pursued.  Before, with Saul, David didn’t really have an inside man except for Jonathan, now there are many people with in the city of Jerusalem, and even in Absalom’s own counsel that have vowed to keep David informed of the movements of his enemy.  They even “serve” Absalom and give him bad counsel.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention here as well that this is also another wilderness experience for David.  We talked about this a while back when David was running from Saul, what the imagery of the wilderness often means for the people of Israel.  Well here it is again.  David is forced out of his home and back into the wilderness of life, this time not simply to strip off his old identity, but now to strip him of this new sinful persona that he has acquired.  While this isn’t a major part of what is going on here, it is an important side note to keep in mind.

There are some less than pleasant images that come up in this narrative.  Yesterday we read that David left 10 concubines behind to tend to his house.  Today we read that on the advice of some of his “counselors,” Absalom defiled them all and thus defiled himself as well.  What’s worse, he did it in the sight of all of Israel.  I don’t know if this was a legitimate way for him to consolidate power or if this was bad counsel given to him to put him in bad standing with the Lord, but I would dare say that he accomplished the latter quite a bit more than the former.

Soon after this, Absalom goes after his father David, taking advice from his father’s informant in Absalom’s ranks.  This gives David the upper edge from a human standpoint.  However, as I read this, I couldn’t help but draw some comparisons between David’s exploits with Saul and his current predicament.  While we don’t necessarily read here that David has consulted with the Lord about his movements, the king doesn’t take any action against those that criticize him or even insult him, trusting that whatever comes is from the Lord.

And once again, the Lord is faithful to His servant David, the one with whom He has made a covenant.  All in all, it is likely that David was greatly outnumbered by the massing army of his son Absalom, and yet David’s men score a great victory, which is also a great tragedy for the people of Israel.

Absalom, in his short “reign” over Israel, if you want to call it that, does evil in the eyes of the Lord.  All that followed him were also under than evil.  Today we see first and foremost that God is faithful to the covenant that He has made, and we see both blessings and curses rolled out upon Israel.  David’s men act as an instrument of judgment against those who would seek to dethrone God’s chosen king and follow after one who takes power for himself and defiles others.

In all of this though, even after all the wickedness and difficulty caused by his son Absalom, David still weeps over the death of his son.  I was moved by David’s lament.  I can’t say that I would have lamented anyone, friend or foe, family or stranger, who had betrayed me and tried to kill me.  Yet David loves his son, so much so that even in this great calamity he weeps for his now dead son.  What an example of love this is.

I wonder sometimes if the writer here is trying to draw a parallel between David/Absalom and God/Israel. So often the people of Israel, the so-called “children of God” turn from their Father, the Lord, and betray Him for the gods of the nations around them.  They attempt to replace God’s rule and Law with that of their own, effectively doing in Absalom attempted to do with David.  Every time this happens, God sends judgment against them, often in the form of a great defeat against an enemy, eventually driving them back to God.  I wonder though, if God weeps for His children as they sin against Him and are judged accordingly, even in the midst of all the evil that they have done… I have to believe that a God who is, first and foremost, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness would weep for His children, even when they have turned from Him.



Day 91: 2 Samuel 14-15; David and Absalom

…and it was the worst of times…

As we read today, we hear again the words of the prophet Nathan, “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’  Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.”

At the end of our reading yesterday we saw the beginning of this cycle, a ‘new reality’ for David’s household.  This whole issue begins with Amnon and Tamar, Absalom’s sister.  The situation is escalated when Absalom has Amnon killed and only gets worse as time goes on.  (An interesting side note here, when a girl named Tamar shows up in the Bible, bad things tend to happen…)

What is interesting here, I think, is how David is convinced to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem.  Yesterday, Nathan told a story to David to reveal the evil that he had done and to pronounce judgment on.  Today, we hear the words of Joab the wise woman Tekoa telling a story which ultimately leads to David’s understanding that he needs to reach out to his son.

However, instead of forgiveness, Absalom receives the cold shoulder.  I guess I can respect David’s anger and desire to not see his son after he murdered another son of his. But I guess I am wondering if that may have led to what comes next for David.  From the way I read it, David is basically ignoring and not paying attention to his son Absalom.  I’m just hypothesizing at this point, but if David had, at the very least, paid some attention to what was going on with Absalom he would have seen this whole mess coming.  Yet, it all seems to take him by surprise.  Again… just throwing something out there at this point… but it kind of makes sense.

One thing that struck me in this whole story is the correlation between the Mount of Olives, over which David passes weeping as he is exiled from his own city, and the weeping that occurs from Jesus on the night that he was betrayed.  I don’t know that there is a direct correlation here, and I might just be grasping at straws, but both David and Jesus were betrayed by people close to them, and both end up at the Mount of Olives which we read is where God is worshiped.  Perhaps its just the path that David took to get away, or perhaps it was intentional, but it seems almost to similar to not be a coincidence.

I wonder, as I think about this, if I would run to the place that God is worshiped in my distress, if a friend betrayed me or I lost a loved one.  After the death of Bathsheba’s first child and David is done mourning, he gets up and cleans himself up and worships the Lord.  This is a fairly normal move for David, echoed in the writing of many of the Psalms that David writes.  In times of trouble, David seeks God.  Even after his great sin, David still seeks after God.  I’m not so sure that I’m always so quick to go to God in those difficult times…  I know that I should… I wonder if David’s words echoed, as mine should, the words of Job:

“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”



Day 90: 2 Samuel 12-13; David and Bathsheba

It was the best of times… and then it was the worst of times…

Yesterday, we talked at length about all of the victories and the good things that the Lord blessed David with, and today we see that even David, the man after God’s own heart, is not above sinning against the Lord.  The story of David and Bathsheba is a familiar one, told and taught about in many a Sunday School classroom.  It is important because it marks a turn in David’s household.  Up until now things have been pretty peachy for David and his family.  After now though, we’ll see that David’s household will be fraught with conflict, starting with the story Amnon and Absalom.

Yet even this “I told you so” story of what results when the Law and the Covenant are not followed really pales in comparison to the unmatched grace that God shows here and the faithfulness that God shows David in spite of this horrible sin.  While not all will likely read this on Easter Sunday, the writing of this post is for Easter Sunday of this year (2013), and there are some very important Easter themes that arise from this story that I would like us to reflect on today.  Read again with me the words of Nathan the prophet as he confronts David about his sin:

“He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor.  The rich man had very many flocks and herds,  but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him.  Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”  Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.

Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul.  And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.  Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? 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, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’  Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.  For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’”  David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.” Then Nathan went to his house.”

David doesn’t know it, but he is pronouncing judgment upon himself… and Nathan redirects David’s anger over sin right back at him.  “YOU ARE THE MAN!!!” he declares!

Do those words resonate with you?  I don’t know about you, but when I hear about injustice and sin against others I am often outraged… but something inside of me also screams “YOU ARE THE MAN!”  And the pronouncement of judgment has been made… I deserve to die and the recompense for my sin is more than I’ll ever be able to pay.  And the reality is that God would be justified in sitting on the throne and saying “Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in His sight?”  Yet today, on Easter Sunday, we remember the truth of God’s Word… the truth of God’s Nature… the truth of God’s grace.  Nathan declares to David what is declared to us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, “THE LORD ALSO HAS PUT AWAY YOUR SIN; YOU SHALL NOT DIE.”

This is the good news of Easter!!  Even though we deserve death, being sinners who have utter;y scorned the Lord, we have been saved by the grace of God in Jesus Christ!!

Jesus Christ lived the perfect life.  An innocent, Jesus took on all our guilt and died the death we deserve to die.  In His resurrection, Jesus defeated death, vanquishing it, overcoming it forever that we may live forever bringing glory to His Name!  Hallelujah and AMEN!!



Day 89: 2 Samuel 8-11; David's Victories and Kindness

For many people, readers, historians, and scholars, this is largely considered to be the “Golden Age” of Israel.  The Lord gave David success in everything he did.  As we have talked about so many times this really has to do with the covenant relationship between God and the people of Israel.  If you remember back to the end of Leviticus, when we talked about the blessings and curses section of the Covenant, you’ll recall what God said he would do for the people of Israel if they were to follow Him.

“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely.  I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. And I will remove harmful beasts from the land, and the sword shall not go through your land. You shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.  I will turn to you and make you fruitful and multiply you and will confirm my covenant with you.  You shall eat old store long kept, and you shall clear out the old to make way for the new. I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.”

Thus far, if you were to think back over the story of the people of Israel, we have seen ample examples of what it means when the people disobey God.  We saw it in the Judges Cycle and earlier with Joshua’s leadership in the conquest of Canaan.  In these times we have seen both the good and the bad, a lot of the bad.  But in all of this, God has been faithful to the people of Israel.

Today we are seeing the rewards.  There is no back and forth here… no cycle… David is following after God with everything he is, holding nothing back and God, true as He always is to the covenant, is blessing the socks off of them.  As I said, Israel is in their golden age.  Their boarders are expanding.  Their enemies are subdued.  Almost nothing can shake them…

Almost nothing… Like all people though, David is human, and as we read at the end of today, he is not exempt from sin… a sin which we will talk more about tomorrow.

There is one other narrative that is present in today’s reading, that of David and Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth.  David promises Jonathan toward the end of Jonathan’s life that he would be kind to his offspring.  The reason that they made this pact though is because it was customary back then for a new royal house to remove the family of the old house.  This would ensure that the people would follow the new king.  This is why Mephibosheth fell at the feet of the king and offered to be his servant.  David’s reaction to Mephibosheth was completely the opposite of what would have been expected.  But David is true to his word and exalts Jonathan’s son, providing for an outcast as if he was royalty which, also is him following after and honoring the Law of God.



Day 88: 2 Samuel 4-7; The Ark and The Covenant

“And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.”

This is really the essence of the reign of David, especially here at the beginning.  What was David’s success attributed to?  Well, if you have been reading the stories of David over the past week or so you have seen that all that David does, he does following what God tells him to.  Even today, as the now rightful king of all of Israel, David still inquires of God as to whether he should attack the Philistines.  It is clear that God is with David.  However, I think it is also clear in these passages that David is with God as well.  There is a relationship here that has taken on the form of what it means to follow the Law and maintain that covenant relationship with God.  Saul showed what it meant to not follow the Law and he was rejected.  David is  clear example of the blessings that come from following the Law.

Following this, we read the narratives of the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.  Remember that, at the beginning of 1 Samuel, Eli’s wicked sons brought the Ark of the Covenant into battle against the Philistines and it was captured.  When it was returned, it stayed in the house of Abinadab where it has been since that time.  David decides that it is time that the Ark is brought back to Israel.  However, if we remember all the way back to Exodus 25 and Deuteronomy 10 when the Ark was made, there were rules about how the Ark was to be transported and how it was to be regarded.  Whether David knew this or not is, I guess, besides the point for when Uzzah tries to steady it when the Oxen stumbled, he dropped dead on the spot.  Ignorance is, as we see, no excuse for the Law.  David learns from this mistake and when he goes back to get the Ark the second time it is carried by the Levites into Jerusalem.

This brings us the scene of David dancing with all his might before the Ark of the Lord in the sight of all the people.  His wife Michal sees him and criticizes him for it, and yet David is undeterred by her words.  I think that this brings up two very important points in regards to worship.  The first is the point that David makes that He is not doing this for himself, but for God.  Scripture tells us that David danced with all his might “before the Lord.”  This wasn’t a show for all the people of Israel to see.  In fact, we can assume from this text that David doesn’t care who sees him because its not about him.  What if David had spent this time wondering what other people would think?  What if he had paid attention to those who were likely judging him in their minds?  I think we get distracted by the worry that others are going to judge us or what others will think about us if we worship (or dress?) in a certain way.

The second point of worship that I see pointed to here, is the willingness to do what one feels called to do to honor and glorify God.  David, the King of Israel, danced and leapt for joy, wearing almost nothing, with all his might before what was likely a crowd of thousands, if not tens of thousands.  All the people were there: the religious leaders and priests, business folks, farmers, servants, and more than likely a good number of visitors that just happened to be passing through that day.  What is David’s response to this?  He dances just the same… and we worry about whether we can take our hands out of our pockets or possibly show a little emotion when we worship the Living Lord, not to mention actually raising our hands.  What is David’s response to his wife?

“It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord—and I will celebrate before the Lord.  I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.”

Finally, we read at the end of this chapter another rehashing of the Covenant.  We have heard this covenant in many of its “forms” throughout our reading of the Bible before.  God establishes a covenant with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses… each time we hear the covenant it evolves a little bit.  With Adam, we hear that humanity will not be left in sin but one will come to save us from our sins.  With Noah, God promises never again to destroy all life on earth.  The covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob place God as the head of a people that He has chosen, a people that is to follow Him.  In this covenant we also learn that the coming of the one who will bless the whole world (the fulfillment of that which was promised to Adam) would come true through this people.  With Moses, the covenant was defined more giving a Law to the people and a direction in how it was that they were to be God’s people.  None of these cancels out any of the others.  Rather, they build on each other.

We have come now to the “Davidic Covenant.”  This is the latest building and addition to the covenant.  We read here that God’s covenant with David is an everlasting covenant and that David’s house will rule over Israel.  We also find out here the family line of the coming savior.  First we found out he would come as a human through Adam.  We then learned that He would come from the people of Israel.  Now we learn that the coming “Messiah” would be “of the house and line of David.”  We also learn that this is how God will keep his covenant with David, placing who we now know as Jesus as King and Lord of this world and of all things!

Maranatha!  Come Lord Jesus!



Day 87: 2 Samuel 1-3; Israel in Transition

Today we are in transition.  If 1 Samuel could be called something else, it would likely be labeled “The Book of King Saul.”  That would mean that if we could label 2 Samuel something different, it would would be labeled “The Book of King David.”  We read about Saul’s death, and that of his sons at their own hands, despite the questionably different report from the unfortunate Amalekite who David puts to death for killing the king.  I am not really sure why that man would have given a false report.  Perhaps it was to win favor with the man who would be the King of Israel.  Perhaps he was trying to show that he helped Saul die honorably.  In any case, his report doesn’t sit well with David, who has spared Saul’s life twice, and David has him put to death.

It is interesting to see David’s reaction to Saul’s death.  There is a whole song recorded for us here which David sings to mourn Saul and Jonathan.  I am struck by the depth of the words and the passion that he feels for the death of his king, even after being pursued by Saul all the time that he had been.  He mourns deeply for his enemy and all his men see this and do the same.  After this he also blesses those who went and buried Saul and his sons’ bodied, honoring them with a proper burial rather than let them be left on display by the Philistines.  What an amazing display of love, honor, and respect that David has for “God’s anointed one.”  I can’t say that I would have been that full of grief if a man who had spent the last several years driving me from my home and keeping me on the run, trying his utmost to kill me had died… no matter what his rank or position.  Yet David understands that God appointed him to the throne and respects that despite his hardships.  He continues to trust in the Lord and in God’s perfect timing.

What comes next in today’s narratives is not something that I was ever taught in Sunday School.  To be honest, I didn’t know that there was a long time of transition and civil war in Israel after Saul’s death.  Needless to say, I was intrigued by all that happened here and I am still processing quite  a bit of it.  I wonder… what was your reaction to this civil war?  Did you know about it?  Were you familiar with Abner or Ish-bosheth?  What do you see in these narratives?  Where do you see God in them?  I would love your comments and feedback as I have very little to offer at the moment!

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As I think about this more, later in the morning, I’ve been considering the fact that even in this story we see God’s faithfulness to the people of Israel, His covenant people.  If I were to ask myself where I see God in this story, I would see him providing for, strengthening, and being faithful to both His promise to the people of Israel and to Daivd, God’s anointed one.



Day 86: 1 Samuel 28-31; The End of Saul

As we have talked about in these last few days, the reign of King Saul and the legacy that he leaves behind is not one that I think anyone would want to claim for his own.  He starts of reluctant and humble, thrust into a position of power, but quickly forgets where the true power and authority of his position comes from.  God had made Saul king over Israel and yet at the end of the day, Saul doesn’t remember the ways of the Lord and constantly takes things into his own hands, leading to his rejection and his death as we read today.

The narrative leading up to Saul’s death is unique in that it brings up some interesting perspectives on Saul’s reign and some questions about the nature of the afterlife.  We are told that at sometime in Saul’s reign, all those that practiced different “spiritual arts” were put out of the nation of Israel.  When this happened we cannot say.  To be honest, that would be a gold star in the otherwise beaten and scared record of Saul’s reign.  Yet as he goes into battle for what will be his last time, he again forgets where the true power of the nation of Israel comes from.  After God gives him no answer, which for him should have been a bad sign, he turns to the very evil that he cast out of the land.  What’s worse?  He does it deceitfully!

This short narrative of Saul talking to the spirit of Samuel raises some interesting questions about a great many things.  Afterlife?  Spirits?  Is any of this real?  What are we to do with this?  Unfortunately I don’t have the answers to these questions.  So I have sought the help of several commentaries in order to come up with something to write about here, much of which is very interesting, even if it yields little answers… What we see here, once again, is a a wide array of contrasts between Saul and those around him.  Saul is the anointed king of Israel, given authority to rule by God himself, and living in complete and utter terror, with little confidence in God.  The Witch, or medium which he seeks out performs her craft with a great deal of confidence and the one in which she finds here power, even if it is evil, shows up with little effort at all.

Saul, we read, comes in a disguise which is revealed almost immediately upon his arrival.  “Samuel” also comes with a hood on, and it is clear that Saul never actually realizes his true identity, at least according the Matthew Henry’s commentary.  Henry points out that there is a reference to the medium lady seeing “gods coming out of the ground.”  In that day and age all angles and spiritual messengers would be referred to as “gods” in some way shape or form.  Generally speaking, the “gods” or Angels that came from God were that ones that came from the sky (remember Jacob’s ladder?), where as the “gods” that came from the ground would be more properly understood as demons or evil.  Matthew Henry also points to the facts of Satan as a master of lies who “masquerades as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14)  Henry goes on to say that all the things that the “false Samuel” or “Satan” says are intended to weaken Saul and drive him to despair which will ultimately lead to Saul’s death.

There are some other view points on exactly what is happening here.  Most agree that this is not the spirit of Samuel that is actually talking to Saul.  If I was to infuse a bit of my own thoughts into this conversation, I would point out that a passage like this is not one meant to explain the nature of the afterlife, but rather is intended, at least on some level, to be a warning to those who would dabble in the darker side of spirituality.  If we learn something from this narrative is that there is an evil side to the spiritual realm and it ultimately leads to ruin and destruction.  Henry points out that there is no way of telling what would have happened here had Saul persevered in seeking after God.  I have to imagine that it would have been better than this outcome though.

In other news, this whole story is juxtaposed with more successes of David as he goes to rescue his family and an entire city from the Amalekites who seem to have taken advantage of the conflict between Israel and the Philistines.  We read that “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”  However this looked, it is clear that, unlike Saul, David seeks first the will of God and once again finds strength in Him.  God has not let him down yet and this is no exception.  David goes after the Amalekites and brings back everything that was lost to them plus all that was taken from other cities, which he returns to them in good faith.  Once again we see the faithfulness of God in the exploits of David, even while living in exile from his homeland, and how God provides protection and even vengeance for the people of Judah through David, the man seeking God in all things.



Day 85: 1 Samuel 25-27; David's Continuing Exploits

Again today we find David out in the wilderness.  He did not return to his home or a normal life after his last brush with Saul even though Saul returned home and stopped hunting him.  Scripture doesn’t tell us why, but does continue to communicate to us the narratives of David’s exploits and God continues to shape and form in in the wilderness of his life.

Interestingly, we see something that is seemingly brash about David in chapter 25.  He sends men to talk to Nabal, which interestingly means “fool” in Hebrew, and is rejected in a rather rude way.  David, apparently, is quite perturbed by this and goes to kill Nabal and all of Nabal’s house for the mistreatment.  One thing I noticed in this narrative is that David doesn’t ask God what to do, but just goes to do it.  Fortunately for David, Abigail is on the scene and, though she knows she has a foolish husband, sets David straight before he does something regrettable.  Her speech to David is very beautiful and it makes David think.  She is clearly speaking the words that God would have told him had he consulted him in the first place.  As has been David’s practice, his ears are open and he recognizes God’s voice even in this woman.  While it is hard to know what would have happened, or even if David was justified in his actions (I think he wasn’t), what we do know is that God dealt with Nabal accordingly in the coming days and David is free from the guilt he might have attained for himself had he actually killed Nabal himself.  In the end, because they listened to the Lord, David is guilt free with an honorable woman to call his wife, and Abigail is no longer joined to a fool but now has a good man as her husband.

We read after this that, for what seems like no reason at all, Saul comes after David again.  As we discussed yesterday, Saul has gotten himself nothing but failure in his pursuit of David while it seems like David has gained everything in his pursuit of God.  Here, again, is no exception to this rule.  Saul is once again given into David’s hands through the work of the Lord and once again David spares his life.  I think it very honorable that David spares Saul’s life, recognizing him as the Lord’s anointed one and the ruler of Israel, even when David knows his true destiny as king-to-be.  I wonder, sometimes, if we should take some cues from David in this regard.  Whether Democrat or Republican, we should honor our public officials, even if we don’t like them.  Romans 13:1 says,

“For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”

Finally, today we read that David, even after a promise from Saul that no more pursuit will take place, goes and seeks refuge with the Philistines, from which he is given his own city.  Interestingly though, David does not simply sit and do nothing, waiting for Saul to die, but attacks Israel’s enemies while telling one of the philistine kings that he is attacking Israel.  In this, David has been provided with refuge from Saul and is yet still being used by God for the greater good of the people of Israel.  This is yet another example of what we spoke of yesterday in the contrasts between David and Saul.  We see that Saul ultimately fails in his attempt to kill David within his own nation, and David, while seeking the will of God, is given refuge in a foreign land and is being used by God to do great things for the nation that he has been exiled from.  In this we see, once again, that God continues to be faithful to those who seek after him with their whole hearts and follow His Law.

An interesting side-note to all of this:

During this time, the Philistines were the technological superpower of their day.  They had mastered the art of working with Iron, creating stronger and better weapons than the nations around them.  Israel, we read several chapters ago in 1 Samuel 13, really only had plows and pitchforks for weapons, with few (if any) swords among them.  This gave the philistines a very distinct advantage in the region.  As we work our way out of 1 Samuel and into 2 Samuel, you will notice that this advantage seems to disappear.  Many scholars believe that it was in this time, while David lived among the Philistines, that he discovered the secrets of Iron-working, and brought it back to Israel with him and implemented it with his kingship.  This too is a very interesting way in which God used the circumstances of the day to provide in huge ways for His people yet again.



Day 84: 1 Samuel 21-24; Saul Pursues David

There is nothing better, at least in my mind, than a good strategy game, movie, or sporting event.  I love to watch players and teams play many different moves, take up different positions, and try to bluff each other until one gains the advantage.  I also really love an underdog, a team or player that is not at all expected to win and yet out maneuvers or out thinks an opponent.  There is a great deal of that going on in the NCAA basketball tournament in these weeks of “March Madness,” and there is quite a bit of that going here.  David leaves alone trying to stay one step ahead of Saul, basically in survival mode.  Yet Saul, with the resources of the country at his disposal, is completely unable to catch David.  He is out maneuvered at every turn until the best move is made, David spares Saul’s life and them reveals it to him in public.  Well played David… well played.

There are some other interesting things that we see happening in this passage that I would like to draw your attention to today.  This whole narrative, the reading that we have to day, and basically the whole story of David vs. Saul points to a fundamental truth about the nature of God in the lives of these two people, and that of our lives as well.  This whole time David is on the run, but always seeking after God and is thus always taken care of.  Every move David makes he inquires of the Lord for a yes or a no.  When David is in a place, he is listening for the Lord to tell him what his next move should be.  David may not be living in the lap of luxury, but everything he needs is provided for.

In contrast to this, we see Saul who is always one step behind David (sometimes more) inquiring after humans as to his adversary’s whereabouts.  Saul leaves a path of destruction and death behind him, haphazardly going after David in the wilderness.  He is completely unsuccessful in his ventures and even thwarted by God and the attacks of other nations on the land.  In the end, Saul has the whole kingdom, anything he wants, and is humiliated by his opponent and convicted of his sins, finally giving up and going home.

Lets look at some of the contrasts here:

  • David starts his journey alone, petitioning a priest for some bread.  He goes to God in his time of need and is fed from the Lords table.  
  • Saul, in his time of need did his own thing, offered his own sacrifices, and was thus rejected by God.  (1 Saumel 13)
  • David, while always following after God, seeks the help of other nations for physical protection and is kept safe from his enemy
  • Saul, while never following after God, seeks the help from his own people with very little actual assistance and ends up killing almost 100 of his own people because of it.
  • David, while on the run, inquires of God and goes to rescue a city under the attack of the Philistines with great success, and is then protected when Saul comes to capture him.
  • Saul, when he is about to catch David is drawn away by the Philistines, and when he returns is placed in David’s hands, and spared by the mercy of his adversary.
  • David is loving the Lord with everything that he is, following the words of the “Shema” at every turn.
  • Saul… well Saul seems to be loving himself and going after what he wants at every turn… and its not working out for him so well.

These are some interesting contrasts that come up in this reading and others as well.  David is given wild success by the Lord when it seems impossible, because of his faith and trust in God.  Saul on the other hand kills his own people and fails at pretty much every turn despite his advantage.  Perhaps I shouldn’t be saying “well played David” but instead should be saying “Well played, God.”

Finally, for today, there is another crucial part to this story that we often read right over because it is not something that is very prominently pointed out.  We are once again encountering a wilderness motif here.  Did you notice it?  David is living in the wilderness, hiding in caves and traveling in desolate places to escape his enemy.  This is not something that would have gone unnoticed by the Hebrew people.  The wilderness is something that they were very familiar with.  David, like Israel after the Exodus, is on a journey through the wilderness right now.  Like Israel, he is being stripped of an old identity and being found anew in the Lord.  Before they entered the wilderness, Israel was group of Hebrew slaves.  When they entered into Canaan, they were a nation, THE nation of God.  David entered this wilderness journey a boy with a promise from God.  He will exit this journey a warrior, a survivor, and most of all a man in a deep relationship with his Lord.

The wilderness is a motif that we relate to LENT as well, the time that we have been in but that is coming rapidly to a close this week.  At this writing, we are entering into Holy Week, the last legs of our 40+ day wilderness journey.  We have given up things, put aside things, and sought to inquire after the Lord.  In Lent we are called to a drastic and dramatic reshaping of our minds and our identity as we seek to find ourselves not in possessions, status, jobs, or anything else, but in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  Sometimes we find ourselves hiding in the caves of life, fearing our adversary will overtake us.  Trust in the Lord and call out to him and you will not be put to shame.

In this week of weeks, as we journey to the cross, let us find our identity in Christ and remember the great sacrifice that He gave for our sins, that we may not be left in the wilderness of life.



Day 83: 1 Samuel 18-20; Friendship and Rivalry

Today’s reading is a narrative of contrasts: love and hate, trust and mistrust, friendship and rivalry.  It is also another microcosm of the results of following the covenant, the Law of God, and what happens to those that do and to those that don’t.  As you reflect on the reading for today, I would encourage you to think of a couple things:

  1. What is Saul’s perspective?
  2. What is Jonathan’s perspective?
  3. What is David’s perspective?
  4. Where is God and how is God at work in each of these people?

Saul has shown his lack of faith in God and his unwillingness to follow the Law.  We have read just recently that God regretted making Saul king and rejected him and his family as rulers of Israel.  The result?  Saul is afflicted by an evil spirit, and horrible anger management issues, and has resorted to brute force and fear to get his way.

Jonathan has shown his faith in God, but is the unfortunate victim of familial relations.  Though he believes in the Lord and follows God, his family has been rejected by God for the royal line of Israel.  Yet, in spite of this, Jonathan still shows his faith in God and his loyalty toward his friendship with David.  We read that both Saul and Jonathan saw that God was with David, and Jonathan all but switches his loyalties to David’s camp.  No matter what his father says, he loves David and seeks to protect his friendship with him.  Jonathan is a living example of the commandment of Leviticus 19, “love your neighbor as yourself.”  He consistently puts his life on the line for David, a boy of a small family who has no real cultural or social rite hanging out with the son of the king.  I think Jonathan understanding a couple of things:  David is the anointed one of God and David is a man of Israel, a chosen child of God just like himself.  Before God we are all of the same stature, and there really is no difference between classes or any other social construct in God’s eyes.

David has been anointed by God to be king of Israel.  Technically he has the rite to raise a coup and kill the current king.  This has happened often in the history of the world, yet David doesn’t even take advantage of the influence that he is gaining or the success that the Lord is giving him.  He still plays the lyre for king Saul, even in the midst of Saul fury toward him, and still leads the military faithfully under the command of Saul.  We don’t see David lording it over Saul that he is better.  In fact, he even goes above and beyond Saul’s request for a “bride price,” killing philistines in the name of king Saul.  David also maintains his friendship with Jonathan, despite all that Jonathan’s father is doing against him.  He honors Jonathan for the position that he is in and doesn’t use him to exploit Saul.  Neither does he exploit the daughter of Saul, his wife.  David does what is right in the eyes of the Lord and is blessed and protected for it.

So where is God here?  I think it is obvious that we can say God is with David and Jonathan.  But, as we have always recognized, God is continuing to be faithful to the Covenant relationship that He has made with Israel.  Though Israel’s king is unfaithful, God is still faithful in providing for the people of Israel.  As we saw in the book of Ruth, despite what was going on around them, when people are faithful, God’s blessings abound.  David is considered “a man after God’s own heart,” and in his grace, humility, loyalty, and love he demonstrates exactly why he has been given that title.  And God continues in His faithfulness to David, and to us, in all things, at all times, and in all places.



Day 82: 1 Samuel 16-17; The Anointing of David

The reading for today, the narrative of David and Goliath, is markedly similar to our reading from yesterday.  But before we get into that, we need to first recognize the beginning of the story of King David.  Here we see what is the “beginning” of the royal family of Israel which will also be the line from which Jesus comes.  I place the word beginning in quotation marks because it really isn’t the beginning, this family has been growing and active for over 500 years already, if you just think back to Judah the son of Jacob.  Remember back with me a bit.  We had Judah, who had an inappropriate relationship with Tamar which produced Perez and Zerah, back in Genesis 38.  Later on, we meet the prostitute Rahab, who was spared from Jericho in Judges 6.  In Matthew 1 we read that Rahab marries a man named Salmon and has a son named Boaz who later marries Ruth.  The son of Boaz and Ruth is Obed who is the father of Jesse the father of David.  So, while David is the most well known in this line (until Jesus), God has been at work in this family for generations!

In this narrative about David’s anointing by Samuel we also come to a familiar verse.  God tells Samuel,

“Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

In many ways this had become a verse to motivate leaders and give hope to the downtrodden alike.  God is showing Samuel what truly matters.  Saul was a man that stood a whole head above everyone else.  He was strong and handsome, or so we are told, and was the oldest of the sons of his father.  So when people look at him, they see a true leader.  Yet no one would suspect the youngest son, a shepherd, to be God’s chosen for the kingship of Israel.  (Sense some foreshadowing here?)  Yet God anoints David to be King because God knows Davids heart, his innermost being and sees that David is who God needs him to be.  It doesn’t have anything to do with his worldly status, but had everything to do with how God sees him.  Interesting how David became the most influential Kings of Israel, the last of 8 sons… and his offspring Jesus is the Savior of the world, born in a lowly manger.

Finally, we return to the narrative of David and Goliath.  Did you notice the similarities between yesterday’s narrative of Jonathan trusting God and slaying the philistines and David’s trust in God?  Where is Saul (and the people of Israel for that matter) in all of this?  Cowering once again, unwilling to go out because fear has gripped him (or them).  Perhaps this is a testament to effective, or rather ineffective leadership.  When David offers to go, Saul gives him the royal armor to wear (as if that would help him at all against someone as big as Goliath).  But David says no and instead goes out on faith, doing what he knows he can do.  I have tried to imagine the speech that David gives to Goliath… what a rousing testament to David’s faith:

“You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel,  and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.”

What confidence from a “youth.”  Perhaps this is what it means to hat “the faith of a child?”  That’s just speculation, but the truth of the matter here is that David believes and trusts in the power of God.  He is unwavering in his conviction: God is real, God is powerful, and God is with him.  And indeed God is with David and a great victory is won against the philistines that day.

Sometimes, as I’m sitting in church, I wonder if we have the same convictions about the reality of God’s presence as David does.  He, like Jonathan, took a risk and faced death in the face on the faith that God was real and God was with them.  I heard a statistic once that over 50% of pastors don’t actually believe what they preach.  How sad… and how scary to face a reality in which God is not active and in control!  Its no wonder Saul was hiding in his tent…  I wonder, if when push comes to shove, we are Davids… or Sauls?

“Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”  Mark 9:24



Day 81: 1 Samuel 14-15; Saul's Legacy

So continues the battle with the Philistines, a conflict that continues for all the days of Saul’s reign as king.  But what we do see here is Saul taking the reigns of his Kingship, making decisions and rallying the people.  While it is good to see the king living into the role to which he has been called, it is interesting to see the his style as a ruler and his faith in God juxtaposed against that of his son, Jonathan and all of what happens after it.

There are really two different narratives that happen here, one in chapter 14 and the other in chapter 15.  In chapter 14 we see the actions of Jonathan dangerously venturing out with only his armor bearer to help protect him.  He goes out across the battle lines and up to the philistine garrison.  Rather than setting his own plan, he just says that he is going to stand up and trust that God will reveal to them what it is that they should do.  The sign is given, Jonathan obeys, and the garrison is defeated and the philistines panic and scatter.  Only then does Saul and the men with him come out of hiding.  Then Saul commands his military that they are to pursue the philistines and not take any food until they are defeated.  To me, this seems like an odd command in general, but for Saul, I think it betrays his feelings of who he trusts in.  Saul seems to be jumping on this fortunate turn of events and doesn’t want the opportunity to be lost because his soldiers stop to do something like eat food.

What happens?  Jonathan stops and eats some food.  Some people from the army warn him of what his father commanded to which Jonathan replies something akin to, “well that’s just dumb.”  We see here, very clearly where the faith of Jonathan lies:  in the power of God.  Saul is making bad decisions in the moment to take advantage of the confusion of the philistines.  He is relying on the strength of his army.  Jonathan knows exactly why this has happened.  He knows that it is the Lord that has given the philistines into the hands of Israel and that they should not rely on their own strength, but trust that as God has already worked, He will continue to do so.

This lack of faith and lack of following God is emphasized at the end of chapter 14 when we read that there was fighting all the days of Saul.  This is a direct reference to the covenant, where it says that there would be peace in the land if the people followed God and God’s law and there would be conflict should they fail to do so.  Saul’s lack of faith is then accented by his actions in the following chapter, not heeding the command of God and taking the best plunder for himself.  All this culminates in the rejection of Saul as king.  We read that the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king.

I think that this brings up a rather interesting thing to think about here.  We’ve read something like this a couple of times.  Back in Genesis 6 we read, “And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”  Later, in Exodus 32, with the Golden Calf, the Lord is so angry about the people’s rebellion that He wants to destroy them, but Moses talks God out of it.  This raises the question though, if we believe that God is immutable (does not change) but we read here that God changes His mind or regrets something that He is already done, do not those things stand in contrast with each other?

The immutability of God here is really a statement of the nature of God’s character, something about who He is in His very being.  We know that God is Holy, and that He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  We know that God is wholly opposed to sin.  We also know that God is faithful to His people, loving them even in the midst of rebellion.  So what does that say to us here about God?  That He is, as always, true to His character.  God can never act in a way that is contrary to God’s character.  So we see that God is grieved to have made Saul the king, which is a result of Saul’s continuing sin against the Lord.  What we aren’t reading here is that God was wrong in doing so, but that He regretted His decision.  In any case, God is still acting in the way that God always acts, working against sin, upholding the covenant He made with Israel, and still bringing about His will in the world.



Day 80: 1 Samuel 11-13; Saul, Israel's First King

Yesterday, as we read about the anointing of Saul, the reading ended with Saul returning home and going back to the work of a normal person.  Today the narrative picks up there as well.  As the Ammonites are attacking the people of Israel, Saul is out plowing with some oxen.  Seems a rather common thing for the King of Israel to be doing.  However, when he hears of the trouble that is taking place in Israel, the Spirit of the Lord “rushes upon him” and he gets super angry.  He sends out a call to arms and over 300,000 men rally to the cause.  For anyone that has been keeping track, this is the most significant fighting force assembled from the people of Israel since the time of the conquest of Canaan.  It is clear that this is the human leader that the people of Israel were looking for, and they decimate the Ammonites.  After this, the people of Israel make Saul their king “officially.”

As with all other major occasions, especially those of renewal and of worship, the history of the people of Israel is recalled and remembered.  Often times this manifests itself in a recitation of the Law and in many ways, this occasion of the “Renewal of the Kingdom” is no different.  However, Samuel takes a rather different approach, expanding on his warning about having a king and not trusting in God as their king.  He says this, as He remembers the history of Israel and the commands to follow the Lord:

“The Lord is witness, who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt.  Now therefore stand still that I may plead with you before the Lord concerning all the righteous deeds of the Lord that he performed for you and for your fathers.  When Jacob went into Egypt, and the Egyptians oppressed them, then your fathers cried out to the Lord and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your fathers out of Egypt and made them dwell in this place.  But they forgot the Lord their God. And he sold them into the hand of Sisera, commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab. And they fought against them.  And they cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. But now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, that we may serve you.’  And the Lord sent Jerubbaal and Barak and Jephthah and Samuel and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and you lived in safety.  And when you saw that Nahash the king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when the Lord your God was your king.  And now behold the king whom you have chosen, for whom you have asked; behold, the Lord has set a king over you.  If you will fear the Lord and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well.  But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king.”

This is, really, a recounting of the Law.  You can see elements of the “shema” in here.  Samuel impresses upon them to “Love the Lord with all your heart.”  There are also elements of the Covenant in here, talking about how the Lord has been faithful to the people and what would happen if they obeyed or turned from Him as well.  This all ends with Samuel imploring the people of Israel and their new king to follow after God, that the hand of the Lord would be with them and it would “be well” with them.

Not surprisingly though, we see right after this, what Saul does… and its not in line with Samuel’s speech.  In chapter 13, we see Saul trying to do his kingly duty by getting rid of the Philistines.  His actions are something akin to swinging a stick at a bee-hive.  He defeated the some of the bees on the outside, but the whole hive came out in response.  In response, the people of Israel flee and hide and while Saul is rallying the troops and waiting for Samuel to come and intercede for them before God, the duty of the priest/prophet, he gets impatient and does something completely unlawful by offering the sacrifice by himself.

While this seems rather harmless by our eyes, it betrays Saul’s true feelings in his heart.  He does not trust in God or in God’s timing by waiting for Samuel.  He does not trust in how God has set things up for him.  He does not follow the Law… right after Samuel urged him, and all of Israel, to follow the Law.  This is the beginning of the end of Saul’s reign.  The brevity of it belies the true heart of the people of Israel, trying to do their own thing and trusting in their own ways rather than following the Law.  It is clear here that the the Law of God was not on His heart as our Deuteronomy 17 (laws concerning Israel’s king) passage commanded.  We read nowhere that Saul has gotten a copy of the Law that He is studying.  Whether power has gone to his head, or worry has overcome his thoughts, He has committed a capital offense against God, one from which He will not recover.

Yet even in this, God continues to be faithful to the people of Israel.  We will see this in our reading tomorrow.  The narrative today ends on a strange note, talking about iron and swords in the land of Israel.  This will be continued tomorrow… stay tuned!



Day 79: 1 Samuel 8-10; Israel's Last Judge and First King

Well, it was bound to happen eventually.  Israel has been living like the people they failed to remove from the land of Canaan on and off since they first settled there.  They have followed the gods of other nations, forsaking their God and breaking the Covenant often.  It seems only natural then that the people would demand a king like those of the nations surrounding them as well.  We read that this saddens Samuel and that he takes it offensively.  Yet God clears this up for Samuel, pointing out that it is indeed not Samuel’s leadership that they are rejecting, but rather God’s.  The people don’t want God to be king over them anymore, they want something, or rather someone, that is more tangible, visible… perhaps, maybe even real?  Who knows what was going through their heads at the time, but it seems as though they are just worshiping whatever, whenever… it is not difficult to make the leap that if people are just doing whatever they want whenever they want to what or whomever they want for worship, perhaps the gods are not real.  I’m sure that the stories of what happened in Egypt… maybe even in the conquest of Canaan have passed into legend by this time.  How sad that everything has become so… sad.

Israel is a nation that has the hope and promise of God as part of their very nature.  They were not only to live as God’s people, but were also meant to be a blessing to the whole world.  Yet they have forsaken all of this, following after worldly things… and now they want a king to rule, judge, and direct them.  Perhaps they hope that an earthly ruler would direct them towards a heavenly one.  This is certainly what the King should be doing, serving almost as an Icon, ever pointing towards the Lord.  This takes us back all the way to Deuteronomy 17, God lays out rules for the coming kings of Israel.  Even though the people want a king like other nations have a king, the Law clearly states that the king of Israel wasn’t to be like any other king.  Deuteronomy says that the King is not supposed to “acquire many horses” or wives, wealth, etc., but was to get a copy of the Law which he would read day after day, night after night… that He would follow “the Shema” to the letter and be an example to the people of Israel what it means to truly follow after God.

I encourage you to read the post “Beggar” by Cody Raak, a good friend of mine.  At first it may seem to be going in a different direction, but I think that it gets at the idea that the Laws for the king were getting at.  Our strength is not to be set in our own wealth, knowledge, or military might, but rather in our relationship with God which is made stronger the more we spend time in His Word, as Psalm 1 readily points out.

At the end of the day, it is interesting to see Israel’s thinly veiled rejection of God and easy to ask why they would do such a thing.  Sure, their leadership wasn’t looking so great (why is it that the sons of religious leaders seem to always go bad?), but wouldn’t that just be more of an encouragement to turn toward the God that got them there in the first place?  We can sit on this end of the words and think, “how could they possibly do this?”  Yet I wonder if the situations in many churches today are not dissimilar to this.  Pastors are being removed at an alarming rate by their congregations.  While I believe that sometimes this can be necessary (things like abuse, heresy, and pedophilia), too often this simply happens because the pastor isn’t telling the congregation what they want to here.  We would rather have pastors that sooth our ears with the messages of moralistic living and the love of God rather than those that contain in them some element of sin that makes us uncomfortable.  Are we too, like the people of Israel, demanding a leader that words for us rather than turning to God in our times of “spiritual dryness” or lack of leadership?  I wonder…

In the end though, we see that God is willing to allow this.  He is not discouraged or put-out by it.  He doesn’t up and leave when the people make this poor decision.  Instead He becomes intimately involved in the selection process, again working His will for the right person to come forward, even if he is hiding amongst the baggage (clearly he didn’t hide well enough).  God is not moved, shaken, or ever surprised by our mistakes, poor choices, or lack of vision outside ourselves… He knows that we will make the wrong decision.  He knew it from before time began… yet He still maintains His covenant relationship with Israel, and with us, and He still sent His Son to die for us, “even when we were dead in our transgressions and sins.”  Praise God!



Day 78: 1 Samuel 4-7: The Ark of the Covenant

Today’s reading is all about two things: the importance of the Ark of the Covenant and, more importantly, God’s power over other gods.

Yesterday we read about the vision of Samuel, calling him to ministry, and also the promise of God to cut off Eli from the priesthood because of his sons, Hophni and Phinehas.  We see this word from the Lord come true in 1 Samuel 4 & 5.  True to form, God always keeps His promises.

But this is not really the main part of the narrative we have read today.  There is a lot of action that happens around the Ark of the Covenant.  Remember with me all the way back to the time that Israel was at Mount Sinai, when they first created the Tabernacle.  This is recorded in Exodus 25.  The Ark was created as the dwelling place of God, the “Mercy Seat” as it is often called.  The very presence of God sat enthroned on the Cherubim that were on top of the of Ark.  It was the most sacred item in the Tabernacle, so much so we read that those that even looked on it were punished by death.  Israel’s decision to bring the Ark out of the Tabernacle and into battle without the direction of God is a testimony to their depravity at this time.  They were not trusting in God, they were trusting in this golden box on some sticks.  One could say that they had become so used to worshiping idols that they made the symbol of the presence of God an idol.

The Ark of the Covenant

Interestingly, this is one of the reasons that the Church, especially the Western Church.  Icons are artistic pictures, representations of Saints, scenes, and things of the Church’s past.  If you ever visit church’s of Orthodox belief, you will notice many of these.  They are pieces of art that can be used in worship, or in daily life to help direct our attention to God.  This is the important point of both the Ark and icons in general, they are not themselves to be worshiped, but serve to point us, our minds and hearts, to the living God.  These were removed from many churches because of the fear that the icons themselves would be worshiped, a type of “graven image” which would be in direct violation of Commandment #2.  The following is a more modern version of an Icon of Samuel from salliesART.

Samuel Icon

Finally, the most important question that we ask about these Narratives is, as always, “where is God in this narrative?”  Sometimes this is more difficult to answer than others.  However, today it is very clear to see that God is present and powerful, even when His “throne” is in the hand of the enemy.  The people of Israel associated the present of God with the Ark of the Covenant.  So, when the Ark is taken, the people are shaken to their core because they believe that somehow the Philistines have taken God away from them (which is odd being that they are worshiping idols all over the place anyway).  But God is still at work, showing Himself to be more powerful that Dagon, or any of the other Philistine gods and the people as well.  And while the Ark may indeed be the physical seat of God’s presence on earth, it is clear that He is working in Israel and in Philistia all at the same time and he makes it clear to the leaders of Israel’s enemies where He and the Ark belongs.

What do we learn from this?  Well… don’t ever take the Ark of the Covenant into battle with you.  Or perhaps the presence of a Bible at official and unofficial functions doesn’t not guarantee the presence of God at that place?  Maybe we are being shown that it isn’t about having the right religious trinkets, shirts, books, etc. that connect us to God, but rather we need to be steeped in His Word, keeping it on our hearts every day to truly hear Him and be connected to Him?  I think that one thing that God is showing Israel here is that He is neither limited by our bad actions or disobedience, nor is He limited by any distance, space, or other god that might be present.  He again shows that He is more powerful than any other god, and even has control of “untamed” animals that bring the Ark home.  God is all powerful, all knowing, and always working His will in all situations, no matter how grave they might seem.