Every Sunday, I’m posting my thoughts about reading the Bible in 90 days with my Sunday school class. If you need to catch up, try these first: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
I was already behind the power curve with my reading this week because I was slack last week. Then, I didn’t do well this week because my dad came into town, and I spent all my free
time taking advantage of free babysitting getting stuff done around the house, so I can put it on the market soon. So, I played MAJOR catch up on Saturday and actually made up a good portion of what I was supposed to read.
I think if you asked the average Christian to talk about 1&2 Samuel and 1&2 Kings, they would stare at you blankly. HOWEVER, there are actually a lot of really well-known Bible stories in these books, which is nice because it makes for easy/interesting reading.
Someone in my Sunday school class made the point (and it’s one I’ve heard before) that it’s important to remember when reading the OT that the stories are not supposed to be illustrations about human nature, but rather, the illustrations are supposed to be ways for us to understand God better.
It’s an interesting thought, but I don’t know that I can agree. I mean, these stories certainly paint a very vivid picture of God, but I can emphatically say that very little of what I have read so far about God makes me understand him any better. If anything, reading about a God who is vengeful and inconsistent makes me feel less sure about what I believe. I’m not saying it’s impossible to connect with God through these stories, but I find it way more productive/interesting to think about the people in these stories, the decisions they are making, how they relate to God, and the relationships they have with each other. We’ve got four major players (and about a million minor players, some of which I will discuss through their relationships with the major players).
|Not sure if this is supposed to be Samuel or Peter Pan.|
Samuel: When I was little, Samuel was one of my favorite characters. I vividly remember my mom telling me the story of the little boy whose life was dedicated to God before he was ever born because his mom was so grateful to have even conceived him. His mom, Hannah, gives him to a priest, Eli, to raise him, and one night, Samuel keeps hearing Eli call his name. After a few times, he realizes it’s not Eli at all--it’s God. God is calling his name OUT LOUD. I was always so envious of this and waited and waited for God to call my name out audibly in the middle of the night. Either it never happened, or I was just such a sound sleeper that I never heard it. (I actually had that thought as a child--that maybe I was just sleeping too hard.) Samuel ends up being the guy who eventually chooses Saul to be the first king that Israel has had in years. He dies at an old age with all kinds of respect from the people.
|All of the pictures of Saul had him holding a spear, probably because he killed so many people by running spears through them. (David was able to dodge the spear a few times.)|
Saul: So, Israel had been functioning well under the rule of judges rather than kings, but they started demanding a king. Samuel anoints Saul, and he is described as “an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites--a head taller than any of the others.” At first, Saul seems to be pretty humble, level-headed, and most importantly, really good at killing enemies (since his entire reign is plagued by war), but it doesn’t last long. He begins to act foolishly (in Samuel’s words), and when Samuel informs him that his time will come to an end, he goes into super paranoid/aggressive mode. Once he knows that David (who happens to be best friends with Saul’s son, Jonathan) will succeed him, he becomes hellbent on killing David, despite the fact that David is one of Saul’s most impressive warriors and they have a close personal relationship. Saul spins out of control as his obsession with David drives him crazy, eventually ending his life by falling on his own sword.
Here are a few pictures that came up when I googled "David and Bathsheba" that do not, in fact, have anything to do with David or Bathsheba:
David: King David (the very same David who was also a shepherd boy who defeated the giant, Goliath) is arguably the most important figure in the Old Testament, so it seems completely ridiculous to try to blog about his life. I mean, I could write pages about the stories of this man’s life. I have to admit that going into this reading, I was feeling a little bit snarky thinking about what a screw-up David was, but the more I read about him the more I felt a connection to him as a human being. David killed a lot of people as the leader of Judah and then Israel as well. He’s famous for his affair with a married woman, Bathsheba, and then the subsequent murder of her husband to cover up their affair when she becomes pregnant. Not exactly a role model for life, but here’s the deal. I connected with David because even though I have never impregnated a married woman and killed her husband, I have certainly felt the way he did following his actions.
Maybe it’s the leftover evangelical tendencies, but I have deep respect for people who a) own up to their actions, b) ask for forgiveness, and c) express regret in a meaningful way. (Insight into my issues: much of the obstacles I face in getting over my anger at the church involves people who can NOT do this.) We see David ask for forgiveness over and over again. And it’s not the same way the other guys in the OT have done so far. It seems like everyone else looked for a formula--sacrifice this animal on an altar and perform this or that ritual--but David seems to actually care about righting his wrongs in a real way--not just ceremonially. When he is confronted by the prophet Nathan about his sins, his first response is, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Maybe this is what it means when Samuel describes him as “a man after God’s own heart.”
Another thing that sets David apart in my mind is his ability to overlook/forgive other people’s wrongs. Up to this point, there has been a pattern with leaders--someone makes them mad/goes against what God wants in their mind, and then they kill that person. But David seems to have no end to his ability to forgive. Even after Saul makes multiple attempts to kill him, David mourns Saul’s death, lamenting, “Saul and Jonathan--in life they were loved and gracious...”
In my short 30 years, I have learned that these two concepts--the ability to ask for forgiveness and the ability to forgive--have served me better than any other in my relationships with other people. FACTS: People are stupid. People are screwed up. People are going to let me down. But, the people who are worth the trouble to me are the ones who admit when they’re wrong, make it right, and love me when I’m stupid, screwed up, and less than dependable.
Like I said, I want to keep writing and writing and writing about David (I’ve always been attracted to the brooding, complicated type--but was smart enough to marry the emotionally stable, kind type), but this is a blog. Other major highlights with David: his relationship with Mephibosheth (the crippled son of Jonathan) and his relationship with Abishag (the beautiful young virgin sent to take care of him in his old age).
|This one is VERY dramatic. Every person in this picture looks like his/her head was disconnected and reconnected incorrectly. And the baby already looks dead.|
Solomon: The things I remember from childhood about Solomon are that he threatened to have a baby cut in half to figure out who the baby’s real mother was and that he built the “temple of the Lord” that David had always wanted to build. Oh, and he asked for wisdom, and because of this noble request, God gave him a lot of other stuff to go with it. As a child, I prayed all the time for wisdom. I don’t know when I stopped doing that, but between the stresses of adult life and the lost brain cells from mommyhood, I should probably start doing that again. I’m only half kidding.
As far as building the temple goes--I know God told him to do it or whatever, but I have a huge chip on my shoulder about building projects after attending church after church after church after church that “doesn’t have money in the budget” for community outreach or mission projects around the world but spend most of their time and resources raising money for a new sanctuary. IT MAKES ME WANT TO PUKE. I got really lost in all the measurements and descriptions of materials--plus, I was projecting my modern-day issues on Solomon. I’m sure it was real nice (said in my best Cousin Eddie voice) and all, but well, where’s the temple now? Where’s that giant monument? Oh, that’s right. King Nebuchadnezzar (best Bible name ever!) destroyed it just a few decades later. So, what’s the lesson, Christian people? Let’s spend less money on stuff and more money on taking care care of widows and orphans. K? K.
SOOOOOOO, I’m supposed to be at the end of 2 Kings by now, and I’m not quite there. The good news is that at the end of this next week, I’ll be halfway through the OT. WOOHOO!!! As much as I have enjoyed reading all this history (I’m not being sarcastic), I’m ready for some poetry and prophecy.
Thanks again, for reading. I’m a little bit distracted by the Super Bowl, so I hope this made sense.