Saturday, July 7, 2012

"David is King!" - II Samuel 5:1-12

            David has finally done it! Today our lesson celebrates David’s finally reaching this goal.  But it was not an easy climb.  In fact, it was a dirty and bloody climb. First there was the issue of Saul and his sons.  Last week we learned that they had all been killed in battle.  But that did not completely clear the way for David.  Jonathan had a young and lame son named Ishbosheph.  He had been injured in the haste of evacuation after news of Saul’s death had arrived.  But General Abner and 11 of the tribes had at first rallied to Ishboseth as Saul’s rightful successor and the result was a civil war between these 11 tribes against the tribe of Judah, who had proclaimed David as King.  Eventually after about 7 years of ruling Judah alone from Hebron a truce is negotiated, David’s General, Joab, murders Abner (chapter 3); and then two of Ishbosheth’s bodyguards murder the young man and the 11 tribes see no other way out but to accept David as King. (By the way, the guards who did the deed expected a reward from David, and they got one in one of the most bloody scenes in the entire story – chapter 4).
Now, David was King of all Israel!  And David’s first act as King was to determine that Jerusalem would be the capitol of this new United Kingdom.  Jerusalem was not really centrally located, but it had never been a possession of any of the tribes.  Jerusalem had remained in Canaanite control all of this time.  So the choice of Jerusalem was sort of like the choice of Washington, DC as the capitol of the USA.  The only problem was that it was still controlled by the Canaanites, and it was almost impenetrable.  And as the city’s defenders stood on the ramparts they taunted David and the army of Israel: “… even the blind and the lamb will turn you back,” they cried.  The text goes on to express David’s anger as he tells his fighters to... “…attack the blind and the lame, those whom David hates.”  This is a shocking statement if taken out of context.  The statement that follows is equally shocking and confusing.  “Therefore it is said, the blind and lame shall not come into your house.”  One would think this might refer to the temple, except it wasn’t built until during the reign of David’s son, Solomon.  And not only that, but there is no other reference in the Old Testament law to the exclusion of the blind and the lame from the temple ritual, only that they cannot become priests.
In fact, the blind and the lame were not excluded from the temple in practice.  So whatever meaning this holds is lost to us.  There are, however, a couple things to be said about this phrase.  First, there has been a great effort made by both Rabbinical and Christian commentators to try to explain this passage away, as if this passage somehow besmirches David’s reputation.  To this it is important to be reminded that David was a human being, with many flaws and also some catastrophic failures.  So, if this is the way David really felt about people with disabiities, it would be yet another of his flaws and failures.  But it is not at all clear that this is any more than a response to being taunted (it was never a good idea to taunt David – he held grudges and had the ability to exact terrible revenge).  Also, most importantly as we Christians read this passage we do so through the prism of the Gospel and recall that in Matthew 21 we read: “Jesus said to them, ‘It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers.’ The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them.”  So Jesus turns this passage about David on its head.  God has demonstrated his love and openness towards the blind and the lame through Jesus. The phrase itself "The blind and the lame," are symbolic of all those who are in the greatest need, and those who are the most excluded.
So back to the story: After exploiting a weakness in the water aquaduct system of the city, David takes Jerusalem.  The city is proclaimed as the capital of a united Kingdom of Israel and David is anointed King of all Israel. (if you are counting, this is the third time he is anointed!) And then we read in verse 10, “And David became greater and greater, for the Lord of hosts was with him.”  Dr. Ralph Klein has written: “The short sentence "I am with you" is at the heart of the good news in the Bible. Moses thought up five excuses in Exodus 3-4 about why he should not be the leader in the Exodus. Then God said, "I will be with you" (Exodus 3:12), or "I will be with your mouth" when Moses had tried the lame excuse that he did not know how to talk (Exodus 4:12). Jeremiah had argued that he was only a teenager and therefore could not be a prophet.  God countered, "Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you" (Jeremiah 1:8). In Matthew's description of the significance of Jesus, he drew on the old word in Isaiah 7:14, "They shall name him Emmanuel, which means, 'God is with us'" (cf. Matthew 1:23). And the last word of Jesus in that Gospel is: "And remember, I am with you to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).
Why is "I am with you" so important? It means that David and all of us later royal and priestly children of God are never alone. However sinful and however lacking in confidence we might be, God is not ashamed to hang around with David, Bathsheba, or us. There is an implicit word of forgiveness in this simple sentence.  Finally, "I am with you" is a word of empowerment. Whether it is the ability to trust, to carry out our day to day vocations, or to face all the challenges of life – including our mortality – God's "I am with you" means that we have the promise of strength and encouragement to do what we have to do.
How do we know that God is with us? It all starts with our naming at our baptism. Ralph or Marilyn or whoever, you have been marked with the cross of Christ forever. It is Christ's real presence in the Supper that says to us in ways that we can taste, touch, and smell, "I am with you."  It is in the assurance of Christian brothers and sisters, in their words of encouragement and forgiveness, and by their witness that we hear God is with us. It is through the frequent use of the Means of Grace, Baptism and Communion, that we know God is indeed with us, and we are God's children. Was God ever more with us than when Jesus was extended for us on the cross?
When a new king arose after Saul, there was the excitement we all feel at the beginning of a new administration, the excitement of our first job, our first love, or each new day. But this excitement is not born just from newness or from refreshment after sleep. It is the excitement that in this new day or new venture that God is with us. Those words alone were enough for David. They are also enough for us.”1.  Amen!
Thanks to Peace Lutheran Church is Sioux Falls, South Dakota for these wonderful graphics and permission to use them.
Quote from commentary by Dr. Ralph W. Klein -

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