Nashville Great Books Discussion Group

A reader's group devoted to the discussion of meaningful books.

Monday, April 24, 2017

BIBLE: 1 Samuel (21-31)

The Middle East is a tough neighborhood.  That message comes through loud and clear in the book of 1 Samuel.  It may have been an even tougher neighborhood in David’s day than it is in our own. One of the goals of politics is to bring order to tough neighborhoods. Saul was given his chance and he couldn’t do it.  David was more successful.  Why?  There are at least three good reasons why David was more successful than Saul.  The first is charisma.  David was popular, both personally and as a political leader.  Jonathan was next in line for the throne after Saul but he chose to work against his own self-interest and helped David escape from Saul.  In fact, Jonathan went against his own family and so did his sister, Michal.  She also helped David escape.  Saul was their father.  And they weren’t the only ones who liked David.  A popular song making the rounds was "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands."  This may be one reason Saul became paranoid and set out to kill David; plain old jealousy.

But popularity alone doesn’t prevent people from getting killed.  One of the lessons of history is that the good guys don’t always win.  Sometimes good guys get killed and bad guys seem to prosper.  David was a survivor and that points to a second reason he was successful.  Skill.  He knew how to fight and was good at it.  But knowing how to fight wasn’t enough in this neighborhood.  David also knew when to fight and, maybe more importantly, he knew when not to fight.  He knew when to walk away and when to run and had a knack for living to fight another day.  That’s not easy.  Take two examples.  The first is Ahimelech.  “Then came David to Nob to Ahimelech the priest: and Ahimelech was afraid at the meeting of David, and said unto him, Why art thou alone?”  Ahimelech is suspicious and rightfully so.  Why is such a powerful man like David coming to Nob?  What is Saul up to now?  David is on the run but obviously he can’t tell Ahimelech the truth.  So what does he do?  He lies.  David tells Ahimelech he’s on a secret mission.  Ahimelech helps David and later Saul finds out about it.  Ahimelech is trying to be one of the good guys and what happens?  Saul has him executed.  Not only him, but all the priests of Nob.  All eighty-five of them.  Talk about tough neighborhoods.  The second example is Nabal.  David has his men go to a rich man named Nabal to ask for assistance, mostly food and drink.  What was the response?  “Nabal answered David's servants, and said, Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master.”  Nabal was right.  Many servants were breaking away from their masters.  David was one of them.  He was breaking away from Saul.  So what happens this time?  This time it’s David who is enraged and sets out to kill not only Nabal but all his servants too.  Nabal’s wife Abigail intervenes so David spares Nabal.  But the Lord doesn’t.  Nabal’s “heart died within him, and he became as a stone.  And it came to pass about ten days after, that the Lord smote Nabal, that he died.”  Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.  Tough neighborhood.

Which brings us to the third reason David was successful.  Fate.  Whether it was the Lord’s will or whether it was sheer luck, David seemed destined to become king.  But destiny only seems inevitable in hindsight.  One way of looking at history is that things turn out the way they do because that’s how they were meant to be.  In American history Manifest Destiny is a good example.  Looking back it seems almost inevitable that the United States would expand until it reached the Pacific Ocean.  It sure didn’t look that way in 1492.  And during David’s lifetime it sure didn’t look like it was inevitable that he would become king.  The odds were that he would be killed by Saul.  If not by Saul, then by the hands of the Philistines or Amalekites.  But the story of David takes us behind the scenes so we can see the hand of God at work in history.


Post a Comment

<< Home