Posts Tagged ‘Saul’

2 SAMUEL 5:1-5, 9-10

Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, “Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.” So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

David occupied the stronghold, and named it the city of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inward. 10 And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.

If we should try to generalize the significant difference between David and his predecessor on the throne, King Saul, we might see this contrast in the relative depth of each man’s moral and spiritual center. Saul had time and again followed the trajectory of his own impulses and personal ambition, a habit that landed him time and again in troubles of various sorts.

David, on the other hand, although not a perfect man by any means, made it a devotional practice to regularly consult the will of God for the direction of his life. This stereotypical opposition between personal ambition and prayerful discernment in leadership is very evident and relevant to our lives even today. And in addition to looking outward to the social fields of politics, religion, and corporate business for examples of both kinds, we can and should also look within ourselves, for these two poles are present in us as well.

The Israelites saw in David a leader who was deeply grounded in a reality larger than his own ego, and who had an obvious and genuine concern for both their present needs and future destiny as a nation. Saul had been a mere “king” while David was their “shepherd,” with the welfare of his community and obedience to his calling foremost on his mind. David’s popularity was not the outcome of his personal efforts to cultivate the admiration of his people. Rather he was loved because he really and clearly cared.

2 SAMUEL 1:1, 17-27

After the death of Saul, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag.

17 David intoned this lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan. 18 (He ordered that The Song of the Bow be taught to the people of Judah; it is written in the Book of Jashar.) He said:

19 Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places!
    How the mighty have fallen!
20 Tell it not in Gath,
    proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon;
or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice,
    the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult.

21 You mountains of Gilboa,
    let there be no dew or rain upon you,
    nor bounteous fields!
For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,
    the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more.

22 From the blood of the slain,
    from the fat of the mighty,
the bow of Jonathan did not turn back,
    nor the sword of Saul return empty.

23 Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
    In life and in death they were not divided;
they were swifter than eagles,
    they were stronger than lions.

24 O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
    who clothed you with crimson, in luxury,
    who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.

25 How the mighty have fallen
    in the midst of the battle!

Jonathan lies slain upon your high places.
26     I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
greatly beloved were you to me;
    your love to me was wonderful,
    passing the love of women.

27 How the mighty have fallen,
    and the weapons of war perished!

We might well wonder what David is up to here, mourning with such deep anguish the death of Saul and his son, Jonathan. Jonathan we can understand, for his friendship with David had been strong and bound with a vow of everlasting trust and honor. But Saul? Hadn’t this king been on David’s heels for months, seeking his life out of jealousy for David’s popularity and obvious talents?

A number of psalms were very possibly composed during the period that David was fleeing Saul’s wrath, and the desperate cry for shelter and salvation we hear in them leaves us somewhat dumbfounded that David could have had any affection left for Saul at all.

In the story of David’s call and rise to power, we encounter a constant refrain when it comes to his appraisal of Saul – still king but wholly obsessed with destroying this Chosen One who had been anointed by the judge and prophet Samuel to be his successor.

David has nothing but respect for the mad king, not for his personality and demeanor but for the fact that he was also God’s anointed. His belief in the sovereign will and providential plan of God was so deep as to inspire his loyalty to Saul, even though Saul was his greatest enemy. David knew that Saul had a place in God’s plan for Israel, and he treated him with the highest respect because he trusted so fully in God.

EPHESIANS 1:15-23

15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

To say that “God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead” (and so forth) might lead us to think that the resurrection was the decisive moment when Jesus became Lord and Son of God. Christian orthodoxy insists that he was Son of God since before the beginning, tending to blur even this distinction in its doctrine of Jesus as God. But this wasn’t Paul’s view. Jesus – Christ, Lord, and Savior to use some of Paul’s favorite designations – was not himself God, but rather was “declared” Son of God by the power of his resurrection (see Romans 1:4).

For Paul, everything changed at the resurrection – which wasn’t a mere miracle, but the transforming moment when Jesus was set free, raised up, and granted authority over the nations. Whereas the cross had been the world’s “No” to Jesus, the resurrection was God’s “Yes.” By declaring (which is more than just making an announcement, but making it so) Jesus his Son, God gave warrant to what Jesus had been all about.

The contrast between the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus was even more significant to Paul, however, for it wasn’t simply “the world” that rejected Jesus, but the Law that had put him away. The accusation, rationale, and judgment that had sentenced him to die was based on and justified by the Mosaic Law at the heart of Paul’s own religion. Jesus’ kingdom movement had promoted the values of human dignity, liberty and neighborly love over the authority of Tradition, Temple and Torah (Jewish orthodoxy).

The Law wasn’t against these values, we should be clear. But in defending itself – as orthodoxy and empire are wont to do – it forced the condemnation of Jesus, an innocent and truly righteous man of God. For that reason, the merit system of purity and obedience informed by and organized around the Law was nullified, undermined and rendered invalid by its own self-contradiction.

                                                                                                     

It doesn’t appear that Paul was personally familiar with the early history of Jesus and his kingdom movement. Nowhere in his letters does he refer to Jesus’ teachings or notorious way of life. He started out as a “bounty hunter” for Christians, taking them into custody for prosecution. As a Pharisee, Paul (as Saul) was deeply devoted to his religion and upholding its Law. The followers of Jesus broke the Law, or at least didn’t observe it to the extent Paul knew they should, and so they needed to be brought to justice – just as Jesus himself had been.

Tradition has it that the young Pharisee was looking after the cloaks of those who started stoning a Jesus follower named Stephen. As he looked on (with approval, we presume), Paul heard Stephen call to God in his last breath, to forgive those who were taking his life. It may well be that this (admittedly reconstructed) encounter with the kingdom movement in the martyrdom of Stephen impressed Paul in a way he wasn’t yet ready to acknowledge or fully understand. But the seed of revolution was sown.

On his way to find more Christians, the inner tension caused by the polarity of his fanatical devotion to God’s Law and the unconditional forgiveness of Stephen finally “broke” (resolved itself) in the realization that the spirit of Jesus was still alive and active, even after his crucifixion. Although Paul recounts this experience as more like a mystical illumination than a supernatural encounter, the distillation of its significance was symbolized as resurrection.

Perhaps we can state Paul’s transforming experience as simply as this: in a moment that would become the turning-point of his life, Paul understood that God’s love is freely given (grace) and unconditional (forgiveness) – not in some abstract sense, but personally, for him (Paul), the one who had been fighting against this love with all his religious conviction.

Resurrection, then, marked the threshold into a new age. The cross had canceled out the validity of the Law as a way of salvation; now grace, and the trusting response of full acceptance called faith, is the path for everyone – Jews and Gentiles, male and female, saints and sinners alike.

The resurrection is not some miraculous event locked in the past, and it’s not merely something that happened to Jesus. Rather it is that decisive and life-changing moment when a person fully accepts his or her acceptance by God. Love wins.