Dispatch Two Hundred Four

Posted: July 29, 2016 in Forty-Third Bundle
Tags: , , , , ,

2 SAMUEL 7:1-14a

 Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.

It seems nearly inescapable that once religion gets located and our sacred representations of God are arranged just so in the holy space of temples and shrines and churches, human society falls into the divisions of ranks and classes. When our god is believed to dwell more inside the sanctuary than outside among the people and in nature, those whose job is to supervise the rituals of worship, recite the blessings and prayers, and authorize the official orthodoxy, become increasingly decked out in special insignia and perched in places of high honor.

Deacons, elders, junior priests, parish priests, cardinals, bishops, archbishops, high priests, and so on, form an ascending gradient of value and influence, from common folk in the secular world to the ordained hierarchy of the sacred realm. Inevitably we have insiders and outsiders, members and aliens, the “chosen people” and the heathen throng.

Yahweh had first been revealed as the God of slaves, whose special favor was on the underdogs, the low-born, the orphans and rejects of the world. Perhaps that is why he was so adamant against the tower of privilege that temple-based religion so easily becomes. Centuries after Solomon made the fateful decision to build a temple in Jerusalem, the prophets continued to rail against its excesses and abuse of power.

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