"After God's heart"--again
Week 7, Day 5
The entire text for this week is below.
Some Bible stories can cause spiritual heartburn.
We noted in the Day 1 post this week that David is described as “a man after God’s own heart” (1st Samuel 13:14). But we also noted that David’s later story unveils him as an often less that admirable person. We hoped this meant that God was able to use flawed people like David, or like us, to accomplish God’s will in the world.
This is true, but it is also incomplete. The rest of the story is darker and more complicated. But an honest reading of the Scriptures means we must wrestle with even their dark side.
In fact, this may be what it means to be a person “after God’s own heart”; to be willing to look into the darkness, trusting God will guide us through, even as we acknowledge we just might get it wrong.
God “regrets” having made Saul king (I Sam. 15.10) when Saul fails to carry out a holy war against the Amalekites. “Go (God says) and attack Amelek, and utterly destroy all that they have…kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox, sheep, camel and donkey” (I Sam 15.3). Saul “disobeys” when he brings home the best of the livestock and spares the life of the king, Agag.
When Samuel tells Saul he is being rejected in favor of “someone better” than him, who we know to be David, the clear implication is that David would not have spared so much as a lamb.
God is speaking to us through these words. They are true. We can trust them.
But wrestling with the questions these words raise is another matter entirely.
Jacob wrestled all night with God at the River Jabbok. Now it’s our turn.
Are you a person after this God’s heart? Do you want to be? Do your
Jesus-following ears “tingle” at this story? Christian theology has been clear, since the 2nd century battle with a guy named Marcion, that the God of the Old Testament and New Testament is one and the same, so you can’t use that escape. There’s no easy way out of this paradox. Is there a way through?
To be honest with Scripture—to be honest with God, we must engage in the struggle. To quote myself from a paragraph above: “this may be what it means to be a person ‘after God’s own heart’; to be willing to look into the darkness, trusting God will guide us through, even as we acknowledge we just might get it wrong.”
Prayer: God of light, sometimes the darkness is too deep. Walk with us. Show us the way of trust. Amen.
1 Samuel 16:1-13
1 The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.’ 2 Samuel said, ‘How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.’ And the Lord said, ‘Take a heifer with you, and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.” 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.’ 4 Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, ‘Do you come peaceably?’ 5 He said, ‘Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.’ And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.’* 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’ 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ 10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen any of these.’ 11 Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.’ 12 He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.’ 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit