Tag Archives: King David

Where Do You Find God?

Door of the Duomo (cathedral) in Siena, Italy

A recent post by Opreach asked the question, “Where do you find God?” Many of us might first think of churches and cathedrals, places dedicated to God and utilized as gathering spaces to worship God. Over years these buildings can grow in holy significance as we baptize, confirm, marry and bury members of our family and community inside these structures. Candlelight Christmas Eve worship, Easter celebrations and numerous Sunday gatherings add to their spiritual aura.

But the danger of such concentrated focus on a building is that the building can become a box in which to contain or limit God. One must go to church to meet God. Sure, we may believe that God is not limited to the building, but our behavior and practice seems to limit our interaction with God to such spaces. How many of us have other places and practices for prayer, scripture reading or meditation? Do we behave as if God is with us wherever we go?

Tomorrow I will be preaching on King David’s desire to build God a temple.

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” (2 Samuel 7:2).

Prior to David, God’s presence had been linked to the tent of meeting, first used by Moses and the Israelites when they wandered in the desert for 40 years.  Now at David’s request Nathan gives him his blessing to build God a house, but that night the Lord God redirects 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?” (2 Samuel 7:4-7)

Friend Dave celebrating as he ran Twin Cities Marathon

The key phrase in the text is “whenever I have moved about among all the people of Israel.” God tells Nathan, David and us that God will not be restricted. God is on the move among us, whether we are running a marathon, buying groceries, finishing a spreadsheet or washing dishes. Is it possible to create behaviors and practices that help us recognize God’s presence in our daily lives?

Lord Jesus, thank you for the safe harbor of my church, but be my pilot as I sail out to sea each day.

The Riddle of King David

King David’s life is a complex riddle that defies easy classification. He was the greatest king of Israel, yet he and his family abused their royal authority. He was a friend of God yet capable of great sin.  In the book of II Samuel (during David’s reign as king) there are seven murders, ten executions, twelve rapes, and a suicide. Yet in spite of this personal violence, God’s presence and power permeates the book.

A clear example is after King David has raped Bathsheba and killed her husband, the warrior Uriah (II Samuel 11). At first, David seemed able to cover up his crimes and to carry on business as usual. Then in II Samuel 12:1-2

But the thing David had done displeased the Lord, and the Lord sent Nathan to David.

Nathan was the court prophet, one who spoke for God.  Nathan told David a parable in which a rich man with many sheep steals the only ewe lamb of a poor neighbor so that the rich man can prepare a meal for a guest. Hearing the story, David became angry against the rich man and said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die!”

Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”

Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife. (II Samuel 12:7-9)

David’s only response was simple and direct: “I have sinned against the Lord.” No excuses. David had abused his power.

David deserved death, yet God was merciful with him. We may not be as blatant in our abuse of power or authority, yet each of us has sinned against the Lord. We have not loved the Lord God with all our heart, mind and strength. We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. Do we recognize our need for God’s mercy and forgiveness?  Are we not a riddle in our own behavior?

Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.

David Danced

With the current remake of the movie Footloose, I am reminded of Kevin Bacon’s speech in the original movie.  He comes before the city council to argue for the abolition of law that prohibited dancing in the town.  He  pulls out a Bible and reads from 2 Samuel 6:14 and 16, “David dancing and leaping before the Lord.”

With our current cultures focus on dance and movement, from Zumba fitness classes to “Dancing with the Stars,”  I wonder if dance will have a revival in worship?  I know that in certain Pentecostal or Charismatic churches, “dancing before the Lord” is not unheard of.  I just wonder if Lutherans, the frozen chosen, would ever thaw enough to tap their toes or to sing their praise with dance.  Can one keep the Joy of the Lord bottled up forever?

Lord Jesus, you are the Lord of the Dance.  May I follow your lead.

Heroic Flaws

David and Bathsheba by artist Marc Chagall

King David is one of the truly great Biblical heroes.  He unified the twelve tribes of Israel, conquered the once dominate Philistines, expanded the borders and established Jerusalem as the nation’s capital. He also had a deep abiding loyalty to God that he expressed in song and dance. One of my favorite stories is how he brought the forgotten ark of the covenant (the holy box which contained the Moses’ stone tablets) to Jerusalem. As they brought the ark up into the city, “David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with only a loincloth.” (2 Samuel 5:14).  His wife Michal was scandalized by his behavior, but he refused to stop.

David was the heroic leader, the model by which all future kings of Israel and Judah were judged. At the time of Jesus, one thousand years after David’s death, the people still yearned for a new “King David” to arise.  Many hoped Jesus would be that new king. As he entered Jerusalem the people shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Matthew 21:9.

Yet David had real human frailties, especially as a father and husband. He seduced his neighbor’s wife Bathsheba and then had her husband killed (2 Samuel 11). David’s son Ammon rapes his half-sister Tamar, but David refuse to punish him. So Absalom, Tamar’s brother, avenges her death by killing Ammon. He fled to a neighboring kingdom but eventually returns, only to lead a rebellion against his father, a rebellion that nearly succeeded (2 Samuel 13-17). David’s household was a real mess.

The contrast between David as King and David as husband/dad is so striking, yet true to life. God works through flawed individuals. When we read the stories of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David, we discover that they all stumbled in their relationship with God and others. Yet God’s grace was sufficient; God’s power was made manifest in spite of their weaknesses.

If God’s Spirit can work through such flawed, broken human beings like David, God can certainly work through flawed, broken people like you and me. Maybe we just need to dance a bit more?

Lord Jesus, forgive me my sins of doubt and mistrust. Use me for your purposes today.

The Price of Loyalty

King David by artist Rae Chichilnitsky

King David’s complex story fascinates me. Samuel, the prophet, anointed him as king at a young age and “the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him from that day forward” (I Samuel 16:13). Saul was still on the throne and would use David in his battles against the hated Philistines (David and Goliath), but then Saul turned against David out of jealousy and rage. Yet David remained loyal to Saul, keeping a secret friendship with Saul’s son Jonathan and sparing Saul’s life at least twice (I Samuel 24, 26). When Saul was killed in battle, David executed the messenger who claimed to kill Saul in hope of reaping a reward from David (2 Samuel 1:14-16). David then sang a song of Lament for Saul and Jonathan,

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 (2 Samuel 1:23).

Though chosen by God to be king, David remained faithful and loyal to the first king of Israel, Saul. David must have known that if he was not faithful as a follower of a king, how could his future followers be faithful to him when he did become king? Throughout his struggles with Saul, David turned to God for strength, wisdom and guidance. He had both a strong sense of God’s sovereignty guiding him, while at the same time knowing he had the freedom to choose his path. First and Second Samuel are great books to reflect upon the interplay between our human freedom and God’s ruling, guiding power.

Loyalty remains tricky today. How does one remain loyal to an organization, a congregation, a friend, a family or to God? As a pastor I sometimes stuggle with being loyal to the people of a old congregation while embracing God’s call to be pastor of a new congregation.  I recognize that God has called new pastors to serve in my former congregation who are faithful and compassionate, yet the deep relationship still pull at my heart string.  I also recognize that it takes time and energy to build new pastoral relationships in my current setting and that God will be faithful here as well.

Have you ever struggle to be loyal to God or to others?

Lord Jesus, your kingdom come, your will be done, through me and through your people.