King David was one gnarly dude.
My cheap excuse for failing to send a message last week is that I decided to make this a double issue, not because it's extra-long but because it took me extra-long to figure out the point I was trying to make.
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Most every day I listen to Mary DeMuth's "Pray Every Day" podcast. Mary is a good writer of books of advice and stories. We met at a Christian writer's conference. Every single day she reads a Bible selection and then offers prayers the passage inspires. Should you feel in need of prayer or just care to listen to the Bible a few minutes at a time, here she is.
Lately she has been reading through Samuel 1 and 2, lots of which I find disturbing, as I still haven't made sufficient sense out of the references to David being a man after God's own heart.
Sure, David was often a charitable and generous fellow, but he was also a warrior who killed many, many thousands. This warlike proficiency may in certain cases be a necessary attribute, but it doesn't match with what I think of as possessing the heart of a God whose essence is love.
From 1 John 4:8. "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."
Probably every professional and amateur commentator on the Bible has come up with some good or flimsy way to reconcile the story of Daniel with the notion of a God who is not only loving but is defined by love.
Of course, people who don't care to bother with such a problem can use it as one more reason to reject or ridicule the Bible.
When my dear friend Olga was dying of cancer, she offered her opinion that David was a man after God's heart because he was both a poet (as was Olga) and a warrior, and God, she contended, wants us to be capable of waging war at least while engaging in spiritual battles. For a while before the end, she agreed with master poet Dylan Thomas and in her way raged against the dying of the light.
After considering her view of David and reading some others, my best attempt to match a God who is love with such a proficient killer as David comes from Acts 13:22 when we learn that God testified, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’"
In the phrase after the semi-colon, Luke gives us a simple answer. David is always willing to obey God’s orders, no matter how ghastly they may be. Notice Luke doesn't claim that David obeyed the Commandments, which are mostly about what we shouldn't do, and which perhaps should have stopped him from arranging the death of a loyal soldier so that he could add lovely Bathsheba to his collection of wives.
Still, though David often proved himself a decent fellow, he wasn't anybody I would choose to claim as a model. I would much rather choose Jesus, but it is coming ever clearer to me that by nature I am more like David than like Jesus. God only knows what I would do if given great power.
Also, from these Samuel books, not only am I coming to believe that God puts more stock in what we do than in what we don't do; I am also more fully realizing how very cruel the world can be and most often is to most people. And after reviewing Samuel, I can better explain why, the first time I read the entire Old Testament, I felt mighty thankful to not be a Jew; because if I were and only had what us gentiles call the Old Testament to believe in, I would probably spend my life being awfully depressed. Because the Old Testament is a grim story.
But it prepares us for the wonder if Christ.
While Olga and I considered starting a new church, I said we should put a sign above the door: "NO B.S."
Olga said, "Why use initials?"
In the spirit of Olga, I will admit that reading the whole Bible as I suggested last week is not always an easy or pleasant experience. Sometimes I just don't get it.
Tae Kwon Do Master Jeong used to tell us, "Number one is patience, number two is patience, number three is . . ."
So please read the next message. It will arrive in a week, I hope. Maybe by then I will find the right way to explain how the past several messages help justify my agreement with Dostoyevski's attitude: “If someone proved to me that Christ is outside the truth and that in reality the truth were outside of Christ, then I should prefer to remain with Christ rather than with the truth.” ,
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