I seem to be receiving so much revelation from my Old Testament read through this year, as I intentionally use the life of Christ as a filter for the text. What I am finding is that the stories I was taught in my evangelical upbringing, though beneficial in revealing the providence of God in the history of Isreal, have distracted me from some of the more subtle leadership truths hidden away in scripture. These last few days I have wrestled with my own blind spots, the current political environment within the Church and why my life has taken such a departure from what I perceived my original calling to be.
As I shared in my last post from I Samuel 27:1, David’s life challenges seemed to accelerate as he second guesses the amnesty brought to him by Saul, a moment that might have changed the outcome for all of Israel. “But David thought to himself, one of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul.”
As I read through the next few chapters, I struggled with the truths somehow overlooked by me, in what has been quite a privileged discipleship journey. For starters: Does a word of prophecy set about some predetermined course for the Kingdom of God, or is a prophet simply about providing perspective, which then is determined by the choices of our leaders?
I share this because I am beginning to understand that the simplified stories of my generation’s Sunday school classes, and frankly, similar stories upon which most sermons were built, may have glossed over or even missed the revelations that could have brought a more righteous platform upon which to build the church in America. Perhaps the challenge of building the church may have been the distraction, and in all honesty, what else would we expect from a generation affectionately called the “Builders”?
We Boomers, perhaps too often listened when we should have been discerning? The Book of II Samuel took me there again in chapters 7-10, as even God challenges David’s desire to build a physical structure around the ark…hello church!
Have we been so long about building God a temple, based not on His needs but upon a zeal that comes from overly justifying the acts of our Biblical heroes, missing the huge messages that came to us from the Prophets, not to mention Jesus himself? Repeatedly we were told that the temple God desires is one of flesh and not of stone. Meanwhile, we support houses of worship on almost every corner, many failing from mission drift, while we pour millions weekly into the churches that might otherwise bolster our mission as the Body of Christ? Did Western Europe have a similar opportunity for change, so many of their stone temples now serving only as displays of elaborate architecture, some at best museums?
Back to the topic of leadership, there were symptoms of David’s departure from the character of Christ, long before Bathsheba; for instance, his ability to justify brutal war tactics and the apparent self-gratification upon each victory. This may have played a part in the Builder generation’s distraction, for war unfortunately became a “necessary” way of life. Let me pause to say that liberty as we now know it might not exist without the courageous intervention of the world’s greatest generation. I do not mean to sound ungrateful, but must carry this further.
Perhaps what allowed Hitler to take upon himself the course of action that could have changed the then known world had America not intervened, was the gradual abandonment of righteousness by the offspring of those very believers responsible for the Great Reformation via Germany? The Holocaust might never happened had anti-Semitism not been allowed to prosper among clergy within our own country, themselves the offspring of a generation not too far removed from the sin of racism and the Civil War? Now desiring to become a world economic power rather than to assure liberty and justice, the Puritan piety that brought them to on these shores was soon lost from our pulpits? The Oxford English Dictionary offers their definition of Puritan piety as the “habitual reverence and obedience to God.”
I know I will make no friends with this post but I just need to think through this.
Back to Biblical heroes, I am not even sure about the comment “The Lord gave David victory wherever he went.” Was that comment included in the text by the Holy Spirit simply to reveal David’s heart, more so than to express God’s intent of victory? Bathsheba would later expose David’s true self. I am not sure we really get just how deep the seed of human brokenness has its roots in even the most righteous of leaders? I myself often struggling with the things I justify in my own life, from what I allow into my eye gate, to what I justify as personal blessing, although a wealth gap is apparent in the Body of Christ that is abominable.
The above paragraph would have just gotten an “amen” from the socially compassionate, while ending the read for many a hard core capitalist…an indicator of the great divide within the Body of Christ. Of course both may have long left the conversation, for how dare I speak against the local church, let alone its Biblical heroes?
The church leaders of my generation have become so nationalistic toward Israel, that they applaud almost any action with a “can do nothing wrong” attitude, at least nothing that God can’t fix or defend. I wonder if that doesn’t have some subtle influence even on what Christian leaders justify in our own country, actions that often betray the Name?
Did David miss what God was saying prophetically in 7:13…the text, at least in part, referencing the future Christ (who learned obedience by the things he suffered) and not Solomon, for when was Solomon flogged? Go back and read that chapter slowly. David meanwhile, simply pushes his dream for a physical temple forward to Solomon, along with the challenges that abudance and splendor brings.
By now reading from chapters 11-13 of II Samuel, I was struck again by a subtle nuance recorded upon the birth of Solomon. For those not as familiar with the text, Saul is now dead and David is King, yet his “M.O.” resembles more that of Saul than the shepherd boy first anointed by Samuel. In fact David has been so victorious that he now seems to have lost appreciation for his privilege of leadership, lacking the commitment of men like Uriah, who refused to spend time with his own wife while his men were in battle; even when given the chance by a conniving David, who by now knows that Bathsheba is pregnant by the King.
Uriah is now dead, Nathan the prophet has delivered his message of rebuke from God to the King. The child itself has been still born. David has repented, his heart revealed to us by the Psalmist, and accepts the grace of God necessary to move on. This brings us to the birth of Solomon, who in David’s eyes, is the answer to the promise in II Samuel 7:10-16. Again, the mystery of scripture and the sovereignty of God challenges me, for the same Nathan that had “read David’s mail”, exposing his affair with Bathsheba, now comes to David after the birth and naming of Solomon, sharing a similar word from God: Solomon was to be named Jedidiah, meaning “loved by the Lord.”
The name Solomon actually means “peaceable, perfect, one who recompenses,” which may have been David’s attempt to reveal the work now done in his heart, yet life would not be as good for Solomon, as perhaps he lives into his Dad’s dream rather than Gods! Yes, he would complete a temple second to none, but his love for women and wealth would be counter to the life we see displayed in that One who would carry on his lineage, not Rehoboam, the son who began the decline of Israel, but rather The Christ.
I must wonder if the temple dream distracted David from the God of Love, and our infatuation with David and the literal text of the Bible, now distracts us from the leadership laws so evidently violated in his lifetime, though mysteriously revealed in God’s Word.