Monday, April 18, 2016

The Story 11. From Shephered to King

Readings: Psalm 23, Luke 1:28-33, 1 Samuel 17:37-50, 1 Timothy 4:9-16
Preached at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, MD, April 17th, 2016

This week, The Story, Chapter 11, we look at the first of two chapters featuring one of my favorite biblical characters, David, the shepherd boy who became King.

We have seen throughout the previous chapters, in the lives of characters such as Abraham and Joseph, Rahab and Ruth, that God often chooses the most unlikely characters to accomplish God's purposes. God chooses people who from a “Lower Story”perspective, that is through our eyes, don't have a whole lot going for them, but from an “Upper Story” perspective, that is, in God's eyes, they are exactly the people for the task of kingdom building.

We have also learned about the characteristics that God looks for in the lives of those who would be faithful. In the last chapter, Saul is rejected as King over Israel because God desired a leader who followed God's heart. Such a leader is found in young David. If we desire to live faithful lives before God, we would do well to emulate David. We see him;
  • Trusting
  • Waiting
  • Worshiping.
Trusting

David trusted God in his youth. He knew that when it came to serving God, age didn't matter. Paul, in the New Testament, wrote to his young friend Timothy, “Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. (1Timothy 4:12.) David is an example for all.

David knew that his status as a family member could not affect his ability to serve God. He never said, “Oh, I'm the least important one in my family, I don't have a chance of doing great things.” He did not allow the situation he had been born into define the person he would become. He knew that over and above all the other family designations that may be given him, he was a child of the most High God.

David knew that God was able to defeat God's enemies and protect those who trusted in God's provision. He discovered God's protection whilst out looking after sheep and fighting off wild animals; “lions, tigers and bears - Oh my!” When he hears about the Philistine giant Goliath his first comment is, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:29)

David knew that the way to fight God's battles was never conventional. Remember when we talked about Gideon winning the battle with a tiny army, some lighted torches and a lot of shouting? Goliath is not only huge, he is in possession of the finest military hardware of his day. Saul attempts to equip David with the best armor he could offer. David says “No thank you.” He uses the skills God had already given him.

We can learn from that. Often we face a situation and think, “Oh, if only I was better equipped to handle this!” We forget that throughout our lives, young or old, God has been equipping us every step of the way to do Kingdom work. We don't have to wait for more training, for another qualification, for another seminar or course. God has given us the necessary life skills for us to accomplish whatever it is that God is calling us to do next.

David knew that God could use his talents to serve the kingdom. He's a musician, a poet, and a composer. Those gifts are used in God's service. We read of how, when he plays his music, it has a calming effect upon Saul. We read in this chapter and the next, some of his lyrics. “The Lord is my Shepherd,” “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer, in whom I take refuge.” “Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me”. Amazing images.

Consider how those words still speak across the centuries. What a wonderful gift God has blessed us with. What a powerful medium music can be to inspire us or rouse us or calm us.

The bottom line? David trusted God. That is the secret of his faith. Nothing more, nothing less. In every stage of life, in every circumstance of life, in every battle of life, with everything he had, time, talents, influence and treasures, David trusted God. He was a man after God's own heart. Alongside trusting, we also see him...

Waiting.

David was anointed to be King when he was just a boy. Saul would reign for many years to come. While David knew that he himself could never be king until Saul was no longer in that position, he never forces the issue. He patiently waits for God to act.

Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in an incident where David has an opportunity to take Saul's life in a cave near a place called the 'Crags of Wild Goats.' Instead of stabbing him, David sneaks up to Saul and cuts off a corner of the robe Saul is wearing, then sneaks away. David feels guilty about even doing this much! We read, 1 Samuel 24:6,He said to his men, 'The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord's anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.'

The effect on Saul is that he temporarily ceases from his -considerable - hostility towards David. Saul does not easily let go of his position. He pursues David. He despises his son Jonathan's friendship with David. He makes no secret of the fact that he wants David destroyed. But in the end it is Saul... and Johnathan... who are destroyed, and not by the hand of David, but by the Philistines. Even after Saul has gone, a seven year struggle takes place between supporters of Saul and those loyal to David, before he ascends to the throne and is anointed King over all Israel.

Proverbs 19:11 teaches us; “A person's wisdom yields patience; it is to one's glory to overlook an offense.” The New Testament letter to the Hebrews urges it's readers “... to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (Hebrews 6:12)

In our society instant gratification rules the day. We don't believe in waiting. We want it and we want it now. That philosophy even spreads into our prayer life. We ask for something and expect it to happen tomorrow. When it doesn't, we start questioning if God exists.

An overcoming faith is also a patient faith. It is a faith that dares to believe that God's chronology is good theology. David trusted that God's promises would come to pass in God's time and patiently waited for them to happen. There was a third strand to this chapter as it relates to David. David believed in...

Worshiping

One of David's first actions is to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant from the house of Abinadab. God needed to be, once more, at the center of... everything. Less they forgot how awesome and powerful God was, there is an incident where, because of his irreverence, one of the men called Uzzah, who is transporting the Ark, is struck down dead simply for reaching out and touching it.

This does not please David. But it was a lesson that the nation needed to learn. There is a wonderful section in the C.S. Lewis's Narnia chronicles, where one of the children is learning about Aslan, the lion who in Lewis's children books is a representation of God.

Mr Beaver explains; “Aslan is a lion - the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he - quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”

That's God. Who said anything about safe? Of course God isn't safe. But God is good. God is the true King. David knew that.

When the Ark is finally brought to the city, David worships God, exuberantly. There's not a lot of 'decency and in order' about the dance party that proceeds the Ark's arrival. It really offends one of his wives called Michal. But God is not with Michal. God is with David.

I've been around churches long enough to realize that there is no one way to worship God. That the real test of worship is where it is coming from. If it is from the heart, God smiles. If it is less than that, it doesn't cut it, no matter how well dressed up or cultured it may be.

If that may be seen as allowing for self-indulgence, recall that it is David who sits down and starts to make plans for the first ever temple in Jerusalem. And there was nothing more formal and grand and intricate and ceremonial and magnificent as that temple when it finally came into being.

Worship is at the center of David's life as it should be for all people of faith. As to the how, where and when of worship, well that's always shifting and changing. It has always been that way. But where there is reverence, where there is wholeheartedness, where there is a desire to encounter God in life changing ways, God has a habit of showing up. And if we don't show up, we can miss that.

David. The shepherd boy who becomes King. The one who knocks down giants and unites the people of God into becoming the nation that had been promised. The one who made plans for the greatest temple the world had ever seen. The one to whom God promises that of his lineage God will raise up a son like no other, a messiah, an eternal ruler, whom we will learn all about in the New Testament, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Let us recall those aspects of faith revealed through David's early life.
  • Trusting. Whatever David faced, he trusted God to get him through. That, in a nutshell, is faith.
  • Waiting. David trusted in God's timing. Such is a message we need to embrace in our “I want it all and I want it now” society.
  • Worshiping. David saw that worship was at the heart of everything that God required of him. His worship empowered him to serve. Through worship, together, we grow into the people God calls us to be.
We are reminded that it is not all about us and that there is a Kingdom of justice and peace and love God is seeking to establish in our world today, a Kingdom that lifts up the name of Jesus Christ and brings His healing love to bear upon the most desperate of situations.

Next time, “The Story” chapter 12 reveals that even the greatest of earthly Kings were not immune to trials and tribulations. To God be the glory. Amen.

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

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