Week Twelve Reading Assignment:
1 Samuel 18 - 2 Samuel 9
"The more one reads the Scriptures daily and the greater one's understanding is, the more one is renewed every day. I doubt whether a mind which is lazy toward the holy Scriptures and the exercise of spiritual knowledge can be renewed at all."
(Origen, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans)
(Origen, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans)
This Week's Video: The Legacy of David
Character Profile: After God's Own Heart
We know him perhaps better than any other character in the Old Testament. We trace him from being a forgotten youngest son to a shivering old man. We see him in both glory and in humiliation. We watch him live with exemplary faith and obedience, on the one hand, but then with diabolical selfishness and cruelty, on the other.
He is David, and he is our particular focus this week.
As we will see in this week's teaching video, David is a uniquely important character in Scripture. We are hard-pressed to find a single human being with a greater legacy. For in addition to all the accomplishments of his lifetime, we observe the continuing impact and influence of David for centuries -- indeed, millennia -- beyond his lifetime.
David is not exceptional for his physical strength, like Samson. Nor for his stature, like Saul. Nor for his wisdom, like Solomon. Nor for his miracles, like
Elisha. Nor even for his unflagging obedience, like Daniel. Still, David becomes arguably the central character of the entire Old Testament.
So what is it about David that made him so special? We know the answer from God Him-self: “I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart" (Acts 13:22 NRSV).
all in the family
When Samuel comes to Bethlehem, to the house of Jesse, to anoint the next king for Israel, we discover that David is the youngest in a long line of brothers. The boys are prominent in that episode. And the oldest ones also appear in the story of David's fight against Goliath.
But David also has two sisters -- Zeruiah and Abigail. We don't read or know much about either of them, but Zeruiah is referred to continually throughout the story of David's ascendancy and rule. Zeruiah has three sons. These are David's nephews, and they are key, recurring military figures -- Abishai, Joab, and Asahel. These three young men are fiercely, if sometimes ruthlessly, loyal to David. They are instrumental in many of his successes. Yet David often finds that his nephews are too harsh and bloodthirsty for him (see 2 Samuel 3:39, 16:10, and 19:22).
The Sad Story of Saul
Once we have finished reading the story of Saul, we see more clearly its beginning. And as we step back to see the whole story, we recognize the irony and the tragedy of it. In the end, Saul's is one of the saddest stories in the Bible.
We begin by reading that "(Kish) had a son whose name was Saul, a hand-some young man... From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people" (1 Samuel 9:2). So Saul is notable for his height, and yet in the end he is dwarfed by two other men. On the enemy side, there is Goliath, whose giantness makes Saul's taller-than-average stature meaningless. And then, on Israel's side, there is young David. He is not physically taller, but his faith and courage are larger by far in the face of the Philistine enemy.
When we first meet Saul, he is seeking "the man of God" in order to receive direction (see 1 Samuel 9:6-10). Yet by the other end of his story, he has become a pathetic and misguided figure. The frightened king disguises himself and consults a witch in order to receive the direction that he both fears and needs (see 1 Samuel 28:3-25).
At that early stage of the story, when he seeks the man of God, Saul is told that
"he (Samuel) has come just now to the city, because the people have a sacrifice today on the high place... The people will not eat till he comes, since he must bless the sacrifice; afterward, those who are invited with eat." (from 1 Samuel 9:12-13). So it is that, from the beginning, he understands the protocol for such communal events. And yet, some years later as a nervous king, Saul abandons the ordained protocol, does not wait for the man of God, and presumes to offer the sacrifice himself (1 Samuel 13:5-14).
And, finally, Saul is spiritually tragic. On his way home from his first encounter with Samuel -- the one where he learned of God's plan to make him king -- the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him and he prophesied. At the other end of his sad story, however, we see a man tormented by an evil spirit, instead.
We like conversion stories better -- that is, stories of people who turn around for the good, who end better than they begin. We like those stories better. So does God. But Saul's story is, in a sense, the human story. For from the beginning with Adam and Eve, human beings have been a disappointment. We started so well. If only we had lived up to the royalty that the Lord had given us and to which He has called us.