Friday, February 05, 2010

My grandchildren like to hear stories about when their parents were children, and their favorites involve a snake in the chicken pen and an opossum in the garage. They also love Bible stories, especially when they hear a bit more detail than before. Of course, they are entertained through storytelling, but more than that, they connect with family and God. These stories are requested again and again.

David is a character in the Bible who is worthy of revisiting. Each time I read his story, I leave with a better connection to his humanity, his frailties, and his passion for God. For the next few weeks, we’ll consider some of the David-stories that the Holy Spirit handed down to our generation. First, a bit of general background about David, Israel’s second king.

David’s story is not sugar-coated. His sins and his love for God are revealed. The tough life of a warrior king resounds through his psalms — his cries of feeling forsaken echo through his talks with God. But once vented, God nudges his heart and he is reminded of God’s eternal, loving-kindness and attention. A study of David will also help us better understand the humanity of Jesus, who was often referred to as the Son of David.

David’s name first appears in scripture in the book of Ruth. Actually his name is the last word in that book, in a genealogy listing ancestor Perez down to “Jesse the father of David” (4:21). The first appearance of David is in the book of 1 Samuel.

The nation of Israel rejected God as their supreme leader and demanded a king like the pagan countries surrounding them. God is called the “the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Timothy 1:17), but rejecting God as the king of lives and souls was common then and now.

The prophet Samuel traveled to Bethlehem, commissioned by God to anoint a replacement for Saul, the first king of Israel. He requested the elders of the city to consecrate themselves and the family of Jesse, who had eight sons. Seven of the sons prepared for the meeting with Samuel. When Eliab, the oldest, passed before Samuel he thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord” (1 Samuel 16:6), but God cautioned the prophet to not consider these sons and their regal bearing, height, or good looks. Firstborn Eliab did not fit God’s qualification for next king of Israel, nor did the six other sons of Jesse.

Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have?” (vs. 11). That’s when Samuel heard about the youngest, the son in the field, the unconsecrated boy, who rubbed shoulders with the sheep and sunshine. Looked over in the brother-roll-call, Jesse said, “There is still the youngest, but he is tending sheep.”

Jesse didn’t even call his son’s name to Samuel. Eugene H. Peterson says the Hebrew word used here for “youngest” is “huqqaton” which carries “undertones of insignificance,” and “certainly not a prime candidate for prestigious work.” David the least and last in his family was summoned from his shepherding and brought before Samuel.

That’s when Samuel finally got affirmation from the Lord, “Rise and anoint him. He’s the one.” God didn’t call him by name either, but why did God pick David? Not for his name, or physical characteristics, or his family rank. God knew that David’s heart -- even after committing deadly sins -- would always turn back to the King of kings. Earlier, Samuel had foretold about David to the outcast King Saul that “the Lord has sought a man after his own heart.”

Bernard of Clairvaux (1153) said, “Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.” That’s the crux of God choosing David. God knew that long after the tender shepherd years, long after his kingship, and long after his glory days, even at the end of his life, David’s heart would still be chasing after God’s heart. What a foundation for a kingship. What a superb ending to a life story.

It’s a worthy goal and legacy for our life-stories: Don’t outlive your love for God. And long after our names are forgotten, the heart of God will still survive in the lives of generations who come after us.

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