Monthly Archives: July 2012

Politics and God

I don’t like to watch anyone mess up. Least of all David. I want David to remain clean and unsullied. Instead, we read in 2 Samuel 11 that he has changed. From a humble, astute, savvy leader he has become a corrupt, narcissistic politician.

He decided not to go to war as was in his job description.  Instead he stayed home, got bored and took Bathsheba.  Bathsheba belonged to another man.  A man who was fighting in David’s army, by the way.

I’m disappointed. I want a happy ending for David. I want him to do the right thing all the time. I want him to use his power for good. I want him to honor God.

Yet, I know that I can’t hold myself to that high a standard any more than David could.

Psalm 14 tells us that, “The LORD looks down from heaven on humans to see if anyone is wise, to see if anyone seeks God, but all of them have turned bad.  Everyone is corrupt.  No one does good–not even one person!” (Psalm 14:2-3)

The psalmist asks if we’re dumb.  No, it’s worse than that.  We’re sinners, everyone of us.  Broken with no hope of redeeming ourselves.

Our egos get in our way.  We do well and it goes to our head.  We receive a bit of power and we get in our own way.  We see something beautiful and we want it; we may even take it.

We can’t do it alone.  We know we walk with God.  And most days we do a pretty good of it.  With God’s help we build up and unite and create beauty.  Then we get wrapped up in ourselves and forget God.  Next thing we know we’re standing in front of Nathan the prophet learning about our sinful nature.

It’s a crushing blow to be found out.  It brings us to our knees and crushes our soul.  “I have sinned against God.”  Once again, I’ve set aside what’s most important in my life and tried to make it happen on my own.  How can we make it right?

We can’t.

In John 6 we read about Jesus feeding the multitudes.  He was so successful in feeding the masses that the masses wanted to make him king.  This would be the new David.  The son of David will feed us and take care of us and defend us from our enemy Rome.

Thank you, Jesus, that you walked away from that demand.  It must have been so tempting.  As a ruler you could have accomplished “peace in our time.”  But you knew it wouldn’t be peace on earth in a lasting sense.  You knew that your kingdom would never be able to usher in God’s kingdom.

You took the hard way out.  Your continued preaching and healing and setting people right.  You loved those whom we have trouble loving.

And then you crawled up on that cross for David and me and all of us who just don’t get it right every single day of our lives.

David’s lying and cheating and sexual misconduct and stealing and killing point down through the ages to all people everywhere.  Yet, out of his lineage came a real King: Jesus Christ King of the Jews.

The Messiah who came to save the world.

Thank you Jesus.  Once again you’ve brought me to my knees.

Right where I belong.

Amen.

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Knowing the MInd of God

2 Samuel 7:1-14a
David has successfully united the northern and southern kingdoms into one nation: Israel. The capital is now Jerusalem:  neutral territory. Last week we read that the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem so that everyone wanting to worship God would have to come to the capital city.

God’s Ark arrived in Jerusalem, but not without some problems.

This week we read that David is happy. He’s at peace with his enemies, he enjoys a beautiful city named after him and he has a beautiful home.

Warriors and soldiers were trained to fight. When there’s no battle to fight, some of them get antsy. David is a warrior chief. He needs a project.

Then his gaze falls on the tattered tent of the tabernacle where God’s Ark resides. That’s not nearly good enough. God needs a temple and David is just the one to build it.

Enter Nathan. Our first introduction to this prophet. Interestingly, when David approaches Nathan about the temple, he grants approval.

“Go ahead with your plans,” Nathan tells him. “God is with you.”

Only, God has other plans. What’s with Nathan? Was he tired of watching David’s successful acts roll in one after another? Perhaps he was having a bad day.

Or did he miss something.

Some days we feel as if we can see forever.  Life is going well and we sense that we understand the mind of God.

Sometimes we get carried away. We think we know. We knew yesterday. So we take a leap of faith with our answer.

“God’s been with you all along, David. I don’t see that God would object to a permanent home. Especially if it’s designed by your capable hands.”

God has other plans. Yes, God wants a house. But, not one made of brick and mortar.

“Listen carefully, Nathan, ” God seems to be saying. And then we hear a laundry list of God’s actions:
God delivered God’s people out of Egyptian slavery.
God provided for God’s people in the wilderness.
God called God’s people, “Mine.”
God took David out of the pastures to form a nation.
God has been with David (and therefore Israel.)

And now, God has more plans:

God is building David a house. Not a house of brick and mortar and gold. No, one more cohesive; a house that will last forever. This is the house of lineage: David will have children and grandchildren and his family will never die.

When Babylon destroys the temple, David’s “house” will still be in tact.

And, in about a 1000 years, David’s son will be the Messiah.

And that Messiah will announce a kingdom the likes of which no one has ever known.


Enough

2 Samuel 6:1-19

Way to go, David. Just when things are going so well, you have to turn all royal and political.

Wasn’t it enough to be chosen and called by God to lead God’s chosen people? Wasn’t it enough to conquer Jerusalem and unite the northern and southern kingdoms?

Success feeds success. Success pushes us on to the need for something new. We become adrenaline junkies seeking ever newer and bigger highs until the world is all about me.

In his search for that new high, David left God behind.  This new idea of his was a doozy: take the Ark of the Covenant out of storage and bring it to Jerusalem, the new capital.  Under the guise of religious piety David uses God to validate his political ploy to gain the support of the old guard.  Bring the Arc to Jerusalem and everyone will have to travel to David’s City to worship.

He can picture it now: people of faith, who just happen to be his loyal subjects, traveling from north and south and east and west to worship around the ark.  They’d see his beautiful castle and government buildings and be awed by David’s power and glory.  Yep, the ark is just the ticket.

Let’s see, we’ll need to get that ark out storage.  Where is it, anyway?  Ah, yes.  Abinadab has it.  Get word to him that we’re coming so he can dust off the chest.  We’ll need a parade.  Get a few thousand troops, no make it 30,000.  Now, we’ll need a cart; build a new one.  Nothing is too good for our parade.  Yes, and gather up the court musicians and tell them to be ready on the parade path early in the morning.

So they arrive at Abinadab’s house and his two sons move the ark onto the cart.  Ahio leads the cart with David dancing and singing and enjoying being king.

Celebrate good times!  This will bring the nation together.  Ah, yes, this was a great idea!

Irreverence moves downhill, like many other things.  David’s lack of respect rubs off on Uzzah who is walking beside the cart.  He was probably too wrapped up in the festivities to notice what he was doing.  And when that cart began to tip he reached up and straightened the ark.

Oops.  Zap. Uzzah is dead.

It would seem that God doesn’t need to be straightened out.

Uzzah crossed over that boundary.  David is angry and I suspect at least part of that anger is directed at himself.  He knew better.

Yet, David will continue to push the boundaries of God’s grace.  And one day he’ll push too far.

For now, David will get a second chance.

Thanks be to God that we all get second and third and more chances.


Where’s Your Jerusalem?

2 Samuel 5:1-10

If I could go back in history, I’d travel to Jerusalem in David’s day.  Not because it was such a good choice for a capital city, which it was.  Not because it was centrally located between the Northern and Southern kingdoms, which it was.  Not because of the strength of her fortress, which it had.

No, I’d go love to see the beautiful city that David built.  I imagine it would have been a tribute to God.  People arriving from around the country would have seen symbols of power and authority.   They would have felt the pride of having a national and religious identity.

We read that, “the Lord of heavenly forces was with him.”  (2 Samuel 5:10b)  God resided in the City of David and in that city David found sacred space.  Even in 1000 B.C., war was an awful thing.  In Jerusalem, David could inhale the fresh air and feel the peace of God.

Isn’t that what we yearn for today?  Don’t we yearn for the peace and quiet of sacred space where we can let down our guard and allow God to speak to us?  I find that space in church sanctuaries. I find them in the nature.  I find sacred space in good music and fine art.

But, there’s a tension here.  David had to seize Jerusalem from the Jebusites.  In their arrogance, the Jebusites didn’t believe that David could win the battle.  They believed themselves to be in an impregnable fortress that even the blind and lame could defend.  After that David claimed that no blind or lame could enter the temple.

We don’t like that part of the story.  Our “American’s with Disabilities Act” and the ACLU would be all over David!  There’s no forgiveness here.  Only a word that David grew increasingly powerful and that God was with him.

What’s that all about?  I can neither explain it away in a manner that “cleans up” the scripture, not can I put God on trial. What I can do is realize that God is still in charge. God redeems.  And where God is present, so is God’s peace.

God creates sacred space in a sanctuary or nature or music or art.

God creates sacred space in the chaos of our lives.

God even creates sacred space in the ugliness of war.

We don’t need to travel back in time to find Jerusalem.  We can be there with the Lord of heaven and earth who loves us and calls us to “be still and know that I am God.”


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