This a.m., as I continued my read through I Samuel, I found myself wondering as I witnessed the powerful work of God in David’s life. Here the soon to be King David struggles through the challenges of a people that collectively longed to be like others, desiring a king rather than simply live in the provision they had known since the great Exodus.
King Saul’s life is now a mess, having been selected by religious leadership, but not without warning about this ill-fated leadership role. I can’t help but make comparison with the challenges of our own nation and the dilemmas created by similar people who profess God but resist the nature of God in their every day life, both spiritually and politically.
Each election seems to take us further into a hole politically, that no reasonable leader would want to go. The sacrifice of funding from friends and one’s own purse necessary for election is now staggering. The electoral system is so partisan, that any expectation of deep change or even friendly collaboration is doubtful, as parties view each other not as a necessity for good governance and balance of power, but as arch enemies.
It seems that the same potential is permeating the fabric of our spiritual community. Whether Jew, Christian, Muslim, or other, those attempting to collaborate for the common good are readily silenced by the majority, each anchored in dogma that may at times contradict their own Holy writ.
Yet moments like this have precedent in Scripture both in the Old Testament, held sacred by the Jew, and the New Testament, having its highest meaning only when under girded by the Old.
David, unlikely ever to be selected as King, somehow finds himself no longer herding sheep, but building rapport through his musical gifts with a now warring Saul. Saul, however, was once a man of pleasing stature well beyond David’s; once a very humble man until subjected to the demands of a rebellious people.
Eventually, out of the lineage of David, though pot marked with the likes of harlots and adulterers, comes a King who claims to be the Son of God. His life smacks in the face of both the politics of that day and the religion, which in itself had become overly political. That Son of God, a name held out only for the Roman rulers was crucified within three years of his public engagement. For like David, he violated what both the religious and political establishment had come to demand.
Whether one considers David’s consuming sacred bread from Ahimelech, or Jesus’ disrupting the market-like selling of sacrifices in the temple, both provide insight into the true work style of God. Seldom does it seem that He can be boxed into religious, political or even physical boundaries. Religion used politics to crucify him; and what does he do, but miraculously escape death’s final grip.
After Jesus’ resurrection, things shift, just as was apparent after David’s death; the Kingdom of Israel became divided and was eventually taken into captivity by those once held at bay by this great nation. Likewise, the religion of Judaism was interrupted by the people of “The Way” and though the ancient feasts continued, the next Pentecost would lead to an open door for every tribe and tongue; until then, many considered the very enemies of God even dogs by the Jews.
Peter, the most unlikely candidate as a church leader for this moment, then steps into the role prophetically conveyed upon him by the Christ. Yet, after his new found experience in the upper room, even more passionately he resists being guilty of defying scripture. His vision at Joppa and the corresponding visit from three men from Caesarea would change all that, ushering in a new window of grace. How easily we forget the deep and real life applications behind the Bible stories we celebrate each Sunday.
Perhaps we are on the cusp of another such a moment in the church today? While trying desperately to fix what “ain’t working”, we grind up, even at times crucify good men and women in the name of God, rather than allowing God to advance His kingdom among men…a kingdom of love by the way.
Could another Joppa moment be in store; a sacred transition, a new normal in the faith arena? Could it be that the old wineskin, no longer flexible enough to contain the work of God, is now bursting at its seams; spilling over into the tired systems that once worked and upon which this nation and the globe it has served was built? These are serious questions and hold huge ramifications for the people of God who call themselves Americans.
Like as in Peter’s day, are our democracy and the spiritual wisdom it spawned now beckoning those once ostracized by the faith to look anew at the mercies of our great God? Our shores are teaming with immigrants and our cities full of the underserved, both named specifically as those whom the church should care for. Likewise, we should not forget the promise of the God of Israel and Father of the Christ of Bethlehem, that He would make a great nation, not only of the descendants of Isaac but Ishmael.
Could this confusing day in which we live be a new day, another Joppa moment in the calendar of the Creator?