Day 120: 1 Chronicles 17-20; David's Many Victories

King David Stained Glass Photo Credit: www.creationrevolution.com

King David Stained Glass
Photo Credit: www.creationrevolution.com

Today’s reading may seem a bit familiar to you as you read through it.  If you recognized that, its because most of these battles and victories were talked about in the book of 2 Samuel.  If you didn’t remember these stories, its ok!  We talked about them on March 30, and many of them are pieced together from different parts of 2 Samuel and come as additions to parts of other stories.  Interestingly though, the writer of the Chronicles chose not to talk about a couple of narratives that we read through in 2 Samuel about the less desirable moments of David’s reign.  Remember David and Bathsheba?  David’s son Absalom (who was not even included in the list of his sons a couple chapters ago)?  Yes, indeed there are a great many things that are left out in this account of David’s reign.

Why is that?  Would this imply that the Bible is lying through omission?  By No Means!

We believe that the Bible is Truth, the inspired Word of God written down by human hands.  We also believe that the Bible is authoritative for our lives and that it communicates truth to us, all the Truth that we need to know God and to see His ways.  And I do not believe that this is challenged here at all.

One of the points of stating this is to point out that the Bible was indeed written by human hands.  The pages did not simply fall out of the sky into the laps of some wise Hebrews that knew what to do with them, these writers were Inspired by God through the Holy Spirit to write the things that they wrote.  Yet even in this inspiration there is context… and what is the context here?  Exile… or rather, the return from Exile.  The writer, presumably Ezra, is recording the history of the Kingdom of Judah for the people that have just returned from Exile.  They are looking back, specifically through the lens of the line of Davidic Kings.

King David Photo Credit: http://www.bible-topten.com/David.htm

King David
Photo Credit: www.bible-topten.com

And again, they have just returned from Exile.  What does this mean?  It means they have seen what happens when you don’t follow in the ways of the Lord.  This is, for all intents and purposes, the main thrust of the story of David and Bathsheba and the resulting story of David’s son Absalom.  They are text book examples of what happens when one turns away from God.  But the people of Israel knew that.  They were just returning from 70 or so years of being punished for not following God.  What they are getting here is the history of how things used to be and how they could be again if they did follow God’s ways and follow His Laws.  The story of David and Bathsheba would have been very well known to them, as would the story of David and Absalom.  Yet the writer is making some Theological moves here as well, pointing the people, and us, to the blessings of God that are found in covenant fidelity.  He isn’t saying that bad things don’t happen, or won’t happen, or we should just not think about them… but what He is pointing to, once again, is finding out who they are as a people by linking them to the past which brings them closer, in their view, to God.  This is seen most clearly today in chapter 17 of today’s reading as God makes an everlasting covenant with David that establishes him as having the throne of Israel forever.

Interestingly, we as Christians also relate ourselves and who we are to the past, linking ourselves to Jesus.  We are who we are because of Christ, who is who He is in part due to this covenant… which is what it is because of the previous covenants… which bring us back to Abraham, Noah, Adam… and God.



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.”