Jesus Christ Superstar!

For the past nine years I have been  on a trek through the Old Testament. I am taking my time rather than doing the yearly schedule I used to do. Reading the Bible through in a year doesn’t work at this point in my life. It is important to get a overview of the Bible and that is where a year-long schedule can help, but taking it slow teaches more about life and living. It has been great  savoring all that God thought important enough for all of us to read and understand.  It has been eye-opening to get to know the various people in biblical history and how God worked with them.

In looking at David in the books of Samuel and Psalms, it is amazing how much we can learn about his life and motivations. We can get to know people like David though God’s point of view and because of that we might get to know them better than people who actually are around us.

The Old Testament is amazing. There is so much  grace and love shown to some very human people. Things, for example, like polygamy and idolatry have been puzzling.  Even more puzzling is how commentaries and theologians explain these various issues of the Old Testament.  Many times I would read about a specific event that was difficult to follow or explain so I would try looking them up in my reference books. Many times I would find 2, 3 or 4 different explanations about what was going on. It got a little discouraging trying to figure who was right until God stepped in and reminded me to keep it simple. Then it just rolled out beautifully.

A good thing to remember is that the Bible is descriptive as well as prescriptive.  Sometimes, God describes things that went on without commenting on whether they were right or wrong. I use polygamy as an example because some of the great patriarchs had multiple wives and concubines. The multiple wives of Jacob and Elkanah, David and many more examples are all described.  I know that God designed marriage in the beginning to be monogamous. That is pretty simple. Marriage should be a blessing.

Jacob’s family was dysfunctional because of all the wives and their offspring. In the books of Samuel, this issue is front and center as David moved into becoming the king. It was a source of pressure and difficulty in causing factions, political maneuverings and war. God certainly doesn’t advocate polygamy, but humans do human things and those human things cause messes. Those messes teach us a lot. It is as simple as that.

I was thinking about this on my walk today and all of a sudden I was humming “Jesus Christ, Superstar!” under my breath. We are so blessed to live in the New Testament era.  Jesus Christ is God’s prescription for all our humanness. It is worth singing about! The Old Testament believers looked to his coming, but we have him today. When you stop and think about this and its ramifications, it puts a spring in your step. It is a big change when one thinks about the significance of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The fact that he was raised  from the dead is enormous!  He is alive! The church that he is gathering is different from the Old Testament tabernacle and temple. In addition, Holy spirit was upon certain men and women in the Old Testament. Today holy spirit is available to all who believe.  We need to tear down the bricks and old structure, along with tossing out the passive pews and podiums in our minds in relating to God as well as how we relate to each other. It is interesting to think about what this can look like.

As I walked today, I was thankful that my trek through the Old Testament is even more meaningful through the lens of the  New Testament context. As so often happens when reading, the New Testament enriches and takes God’s love and grace to a whole other level.

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The Anointings of David

In the books of Samuel, three anointings of David are recorded in:

I Samuel 16:12-13 (Samuel anointed David)
II Samuel 2:4 (men of Judah did the anointing)
II Samuel 5:3 (elders of Israel anointed David

When Samuel anointed David, he was a young sheep herder and Saul was the king of the Hebrews. Saul had shown that  he cared more about what the people thought rather than God. The Lord rejected Saul as king. When David was anointed with the horn of oil, the Spirit of the Lord came upon David and he certainly would need that power in all that God wanted him to do.

David was the youngest of the eight sons of Jesse. Three of his older brothers served in Saul’s army. In the famous confrontation of Goliath, none of Saul’s men had the courage to take on Goliath.  David did and got the job done, but not without some chiding from his oldest brother. Despite his age, Saul asked to see him and David convinced him that he would take care of Goliath. Saul tried to give David his armor and sword but David did not  feel he could use them and he handled Goliath with a sling and stone:

44 And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.45 Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.46 This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands. 1 Samuel 17:44-47

The Spirit of God was with David and he knew the outcome of the fight. He was bold and full of courage to defend God’s people despite the negatives set before him. He killed Goliath.

After Saul died, David became King of Judah as recorded in II Samuel 2:4 when the men of the tribe of Judah anointed him as an acceptance of his kingship. The rest of the Israel made Saul’s son king over Israel. There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David but eventually through a series of events, the elders of Israel came to David..

5 Then came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron, and spake, saying, Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh. 2 Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and the Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel. 3 So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the Lord: and they anointed David king over Israel. II Samuel 5:1-3

Many things happened before all all of this could come together. A significant amount of time passed. God’s overview of men’s hearts and conditions surpasses  men’s impatience in trying to arrange things for themselves. Saul failed as a king because he didn’t wait on God and put his own fears into his kingship.  Confusion resulted. David became king over all of Israel as he carried out God’s directions for the best benefit to Israel. Order resulted.

12 And David perceived that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for his people Israel’s sake. II Samuel 5:12

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David’s Attitude Toward Saul

Imagine waking up every morning knowing that someone was after you and this same person had once been anointed to serve God and watch out for God’s people. David experienced  hard persecution under Saul who was ruler over Israel. David also was aware of God’s plan for his own future to lead Israel.  He spoke up and tried proving to Saul that he was loyal a couple of times and Saul would back off temporarily. When his hard-hearted feelings came to the surface again, he forgot about David’s loyalty.  David indeed was loyal and had Saul’s best interests at heart and held to the conviction he would not harm ‘the Lord’s anointed’ (I Samuel 24:4-10, 26:7-11). Saul was so deceived that he even consulted a fortune teller instead of God. Saul was eventually killed in a battle by the Philistines.

How does one live in peace under the conditions that David was living in?  David escaped Saul’s attacks several times.  How could he live peaceably knowing he had to stay on the run? It definitely bothered him. He may have even questioned himself. Many of the psalms reflect his prayers to God for this situation. He knew God would take care of him and he would be free. It was God’s peace that kept him.

In Romans 12:18 Paul states:

18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

We are exhorted to live peaceably with all men.  Sometimes that is not possible. Notice, Paul says “If it be possible”.  If you look around at our culture today, this seems like a huge task given the contentious spirit in our culture.  We need to listen to God and behave wisely in dealing with contentious people. We have to realize that people sometimes will never change and just walk away.  Contention is nothing to mess around with, the more one feeds it, the more it grows.

Contention is different from conflict. People have their own conflicting opinions and we often disagree, but contention involves knocking people down mentally or even physically as it was with Saul.

David knew that dealing with Saul’s problems was above his pay grade.  David could not talk to Saul and resolve what was between them. He left that to God. David was a very successful warrior and behaved wisely, but David kept his hands clean when it came to Saul and when Saul was killed David mourned over him. Many people in David’s situation probably would have jumped for joy.

God knows all that is going on, we most often don’t.  The wisest thing we can do is put it in prayer mode and trust God to work it all out. We are not responsible for another’s peace. If God wants us to get involved, then there will be some profitable outcome. He will will be very clear about the open door to the situation. Otherwise, we need to focus on our own pastures.

Living under the New Testament Covenant  with Jesus Christ as Lord means we are all God’s sons and daughters. We have direct access to the Father whom we can turn to when we need help. Then how we deal with attacks will speak to the quality of His Word of our lives.

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Abigail: ‘Help melt’ To “Help meet”

David and his unique band of men were on the run from Saul for a while. It was a precarious lifestyle and required help from others from time to time. David escaped to the wilderness of Paran and learned about a wealthy man named Nabal from Maon who was having his sheep sheared in Carmel. David sent ten men to approach Nabal’s sheep herders and insure them that they were friendly and not enemies and actually could help them in return for supplies. Nabal was described as churlish and mean spirited. He lived up to this description in his response. He was very surly to the ten men. When this was reported to David, he told his men to arm themselves for a fight. Some of Nabal’s sheep shearers went to Nabal’s wife, Abigail, and told her what was going on and enlisted her aid. This says a lot about the quality of her life and the respect they had for her.

Abigail is described as beautiful and full of understanding. Without her husband knowing it, she took the initiative to gather a large amount of supplies and food and made her way to David to ease the tension.  David listened to her wise admonitions and left. In this patriarchal culture, she must have been a bold, courageous woman. David obviously was impressed with her. When she returned home, her husband was drunk, so she wisely waited to talk to him when he was sober. When he heard what she had done, he ‘became as stone’ and died 10 days later. David upon hearing of Nabal’s death sent for her to become his wife.

This woman recognized the future of David as king and saw it as a point of reasoning with him. There are some interesting things she said to him:

28 I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid: for the Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house; because my lord fighteth the battles of the Lord, and evil hath not been found in thee all thy days. 29 Yet a man is risen to pursue thee, and to seek thy soul: but the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the Lord thy God; and the souls of thine enemies, them shall he sling out, as out of the middle of a sling. 30 And it shall come to pass, when the Lord shall have done to my lord according to all the good that he hath spoken concerning thee, and shall have appointed thee ruler over Israel; 31 That this shall be no grief unto thee, nor offence of heart unto my lord, either that thou hast shed blood causeless, or that my lord hath avenged himself: but when the Lord shall have dealt well with my lord, then remember thine handmaid. I Samuel 25:28-31

When people traveled in this culture, they wrapped their valuables in a bundle to be kept in a safe place where they could diligently watch over them. Abigail was implying that God would keep him near and diligently watch over him. As for David’s enemies, they would be like a stone which is put in a sling at its center and hurled out and away.

A person becomes as a stone out of hardness of heart. It involves  a way of thinking in reaction to life. There’s an old saying I think of when I see hardness of heart:’The same sun that melts butter, hardens clay’. We are all susceptible to varying amounts of this type of attitude, but being reminded of ‘being bound in the bundle of life with God’ changes our perspective.

Samuel, the prophet of Israel, had recently died just prior to this whole incident. Saul was still king but was not walking with God.  David must have been so comforted to be reminded of what God saw in his future. Throughout this time in his life, he had faced pressures, constant threats and tough situations. Life is not always easy. It melted his heart when Abigail spoke. The Word can work that way for all of us; only sometimes it just takes a few gentle warm words, other times it may take a blow torch.

Abigail acting quickly (made haste in verses 18, 23 and 34) and confidently with grace, averted something that could have been deleterious for David.  What she said to David is the second longest (Deborah has the longest) record of any woman in the Old Testament.  As a woman, she is an  example with great strength, wisdom and an encouraging heart. Her words made a great impact on David and history for that matter. Like Sarah, Deborah, Ruth and Hannah, Esther and other great women, she is an example of how a woman of God can walk with great power to influence and help melt (reminds of the words ‘helpmeet” in Genesis 2) critical situations that might have had different outcomes.

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Amelioration and Pejoration of Words

Linguistics was one of the most fascinating classes I took in graduate school. A part of linguistics that is particularly interesting to me is the origins of words and their changes through time. For example, the word ‘villain’ originally described a rural farmer, today it indicates a wicked person. There are many words like it that have “evolved” through time.

The word ‘minister’ originally meant servant or subordinate. Inherent in the word ‘minister’ is the word ‘minus’ or ‘minor’.  In both religious and political worlds, it was transformed through the ages into a rank or position of superiority (Father So-and-so and Prime minister). That is a big change.

Some words changed in elevation (amelioration), just as others were changed to be degraded (pejoration). An example of pejoration is the word ‘judge’. It is a good thing to be able to decide between good and evil. Adding ‘ment’ to ‘judge’ still connotes something good. ‘Ment’ involves action on when used in combination with another word, thus the act of ‘judging’. The related word ‘judicious’, is a good word also, meaning astute, careful, accurate, involving thoughtfulness. If we add an ‘al’ onto ‘judgement’ we get a word that has negative connotations in our culture today. Adding ‘al’ to a word such as ‘judgement’ links the action with the original word. So now we have the word ‘judgemental’ which through the years has been subject to pejoration and is taking ‘judge’ and ‘judgment’ down with it. Similarly ‘discrimination’ has evolved in such manner.

Both these words involve thought, but what must be remembered is the thinking behind the thought. Words can be used for both good and evil. Deborah was both a judge and judgmental and was highly respected. Her judgment was pure love as it came from God. Samuel was a judge and he listened to God. Samuel took a lot of heat for that. Saul exercised hurtful judgmental tendencies in his assessment of David. Good judgment involves love and bad judgment harms. Good judgment does not always garner respect and can be quite difficult, ask any parent, teacher or counselor.

Words are important vehicles to understanding. Words evolve because of culture, society, social mores and human influences. God’s words never change. We have to keep this in mind as we assess situations so that we don’t pin labels indiscriminately on others.

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Love Consciousness and Sinconsciousness

We do not talk about ‘sin’ in polite conversation. It is a topic most people have avoided. It is a dark word and somewhat sinister (no pun intended). Who has taught us what sin is? Hellfire and damnation are the tracks along which sin seems to travel in religious circles. Lack of understanding of what meant by sin leads to apathy towards God which is what sin really is. Staying on the sin track of fear will drive people deeper into sin.

There is a lot in the Old Testament about what is sin and what is not. We can read about the ten commandments and the law, which pretty well spells out the no-nos of God. Jesus Christ in the New Testament narrows this down and sums it up by two simple laws: love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

God is love and there is no darkness or ill-will in him. Sin should be defined with that in mind. God doesn’t want to instill fear to get us to love him. There is nothing created by God on this earth that indicates that. The Bible does not teach us that.

There are a multiple number of things in this world that are evil, but they don’t originate with God. If  the fear definition of sin prevails, apathy sometimes results and people make no effort to know God at all which is the goal of evil. God teaches us otherwise through his creation with sunrise and sunset.  Light gives us the ability to see what is going on, darkness involves groping. Just as we can grope in darkness in the physical world, the same can be said of the spiritual world.

In I John it says ‘we love God because he first loved us’. Well, if you don’t know God, how are you going love him and realize what he wants for you? To know him is to love him. That is the first pre-requisite for prayer. People tell me that they have trouble with getting their prayers answered and that God is very quiet. It may seem like that but there are reasons why it seems like that at times. The world is very noisy and busy. People just don’t take the time to get to know the creator of the universe or how much he loves us. It is too easy to take someone else’s word for it. We need to tap into God’s word for understanding. Understanding comes with knowledge and application of that knowledge. That’s how we find out how much God loves us.

‘Sin’ in the word of God is translated from the Greek word that means ‘missing the mark’. If you can miss something, you can also decide to find it. I often think of this as an archery target where the target is the word of God. The field behind it is the world and all of its flaws, enticements, dangers and imperfections. When we miss the target, the arrows fall into the field and are subject to all that lies there. When focused, we can hit the target and get all the benefits of being above all of that.

We have been given free-will to do what we want. We aren’t robots!  If a person wants to just mess around, that’s his right.  It is not his right then  to say God landed him in the dirt or that God doesn’t listen. God is love, he wants the best for us.

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Refined Gold

Psalm 18 contains some golden nuggets that  give us a view of how God blessed and helped David in times of trouble.  Life wasn’t always easy for him but God was his shield-like protection through it all because he continued to trust in God.

30 As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. Psalm 18:30

God’s way is perfect (complete, sound). The word ‘tried’ as it was written in the Hebrew means ‘refined’ as in metallurgy. In refining gold, several steps have to be taken to sort out the other less desirable elements that get caught up with gold making it less pure.

We mine the Bible for the truth of the word of God. When we find truth it can be put to the test and it stands. It is pure gold. David did that over and over  and Psalm 18 is his witness.

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