Friday, March 26, 2010
Teaching a kindergarten Bible class, I held up Bible with gold lettering on the front: “The New International Version.” To my surprise a five year old sounded out the words. He only missed one of them, as he slowly pronounced, “The...New...Entertaining...Version.”
He was right. Entertaining. Inspirational. Informative. That’s the Bible.
After their coronation, God asked that kings of Israel copy God’s laws onto a personal scroll. A private copy in a king’s penmanship was to be kept near him so it could be read often. That copying process and later reading were teaching tools, designed to shape God-honoring, kingly hearts.
King David must have spent time copying scripture, too. In many of his personal psalms, he mentions adoration and understanding of the law of God, surely an extra benefit of copying the texts.
What other benefits might he have gained? Foremost, he learned about God and the laws set in place to govern men. Imagine copying your favorite book in the Bible—word for word. What sort of impact would that have on your heart, soul, mind, and spirit by the time you were through with the exercise?
A king could more precisely follow God’s laws and issue more godly rulings after inking his way across scrolls. God’s civil laws—perfect in justice—could thoroughly guide kings when they were meted into hearts one word at a time.
Additional outcomes from the copying and reading exercise, was for the king to not “consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the left or to the right” (Deuteronomy 17:20). On the contrary, history’s index is full of infamous heads of states who opposed God and legislated evil, which oppressed their fellow man.
Also, writing the words of God created a bond that could soothe a king’s personal woes. When I think of David’s life, I remember his laments. David had plenty of ills befall him—some foisted upon him, but he suffered other miseries because of his own poor decisions and sins.
Some of David’s suffering: Assassins hounded David. He suffered the deaths of multiple sons. He committed adultery. He placed Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, in a precarious warfront, knowing death would likely claim him. Since David had slept with Bathsheba, David hoped the smoke of the battle field would cover his sins, but only the God’s washing could make him “whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7).
David had a posse of wives and even more children, and some of those neglected children turned out foul. At least one wife hated him. He counted his fighting men, and thereby showed at least momentary distrust of God.
But again and again in David’s writings we see a man who kept bringing his life before God for examination and forgiveness. Author Cecil Murphey uses a phrase that aptly describes David—“committed but flawed.” David laid both his laments and his flaws at his Commander’s feet. And from God’s vantage point—inside David’s spirit—God recognized him as, “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22).
“Entertain” means to receive thoughts or ideas hospitably. Even when David sinned, he was hospitable to the nudges of God to confess and be forgiven. This weekend many will celebrate Palm Sunday, the day the city of Jerusalem “entertained” Jesus, welcomed him hospitably, but in only a few short days the fickle crowd turned and cried, “Crucify him!” How much like David are we? How much like the crowd are we? I recognize myself in both David and the crowd. But what I long to do is welcome God the Father and his son more, and shout them down less.
When the little boy called the Bible an “entertainment,” a hospitable version, he correctly summed up God’s words. David copied the old commands, as God simultaneously etched his ways into the king’s heart. Make plans to praise and adore the King of kings this Sunday. He’s still look for folk who will welcome him. He longs for another generation who can be called a people after “his own heart.”