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 60: Deuteronomy 30-31; A Matter of Life and Death

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.  It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.”

There is so much that is said in these last 5 chapters of Deuteronomy.  This really is Moses farewell address; his last effort to impress upon the people of Israel the importance of the Law and of following God.  Reading this, it doesn’t take long to realize either that this section of Scripture, Deuteronomy 30-34, is inextricably linked to the reading of the Law, and specifically the Shema of Deuteronomy 6.  It is about loving the Lord with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength!  God is impressing upon the people what will happen to them if they don’t, but also reassuring them that when they return to Him, His blessing will again be with them.

Again, the distinction is made between the life that comes from following the Lord and the death that comes from not.  These words, spoken some 3000 years ago have held their meaning throughout the ages.  I think of my own life, when I am following God, loving Him as best I can, and trying to stay in tune with Him in my life, I see myself being happier, joyful, and prospering (not necessarily in a monetary sense but within my soul).  When I become disconnected from God, life seems empty and messed up.  Other things try to fill the void that is left to no avail.

God also impresses one more thing on to this command, the point that these things are not too lofty or difficult to do.  He points out that they are not difficult to understand, with some hidden knowledge that people might not be able to comprehend.  It is made clear too that the things being asked of them are not too difficult that some might be unable to accomplish them.  The life that God calls us to live is made abundantly available to us in a manner that is easy and understandable, attainable for all people.  And yet, even this is not enough to get us to God or to get us in right standing with God.  The physical actions must be accompanied by inward transformation (circumcision of the heart).

These people have just come from the wilderness, a place that is often barren and desolate.  The wilderness is a powerful image in Hebrew Scripture.  “Wilderness signals the reversal of creation, a land that moves from the centered, ordered, predictable, secure places of home and city to the de-centered, chaotic, unpredictable, fragile, and sometimes hostile regions beyond the borders of cities and outside the purview of home.  Wilderness features a transition from that which is familiar to that which is unfamiliar, from safety to fragility, from known to unknown, from structured to unstructured, from close cloistered spaces to wide open spaces. The wilderness strips you of everything superfluous and reduces you to that which is most essential, most necessary, most vital for life. In this way the wilderness plays an indispensable role in shaping and forming identity.”  -Travis West

God intentionally led the people of Israel into the wilderness and kept them there for a time, intentionally stripping them of their identity of being slaves to Egypt.  In that time they were re-identified as the people of God, given new purpose through the Laws set down for them.  It is only after this process is “complete” that they were allowed to enter into the promise land… allowed to become what they were intended to be.

In many ways we too face the wilderness in our lives.  In the year of this writing, we are currently in the time of Lent.  This is a time in which we are invited to enter into the wilderness of life, as Israel and Jesus did, to be stripped bare of all those things we don’t need.  We are to be un-identified with all the things that we would use to find our identity in, and then re-identified and re-centered on Christ.  In a way, we choose to be “dis-membered” so that as we approach the time of Easter and remember the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday, we can come and be “re-membered” in Christ as we remember Christ’s death.  And even in this time we hear the words of God through Moses echo in our ears, “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.”

May it be that we choose Life!