Re:Verse passage – 2 Samuel 24 (day three)
“Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.”
We recognize David least when he is behaving most like a clichéd tyrant—employing his power to bend the world to his will. The writer of 2 Samuel makes apparent that God has established and nurtured the nation for his own purposes. David now behaves as if he has outgrown those purposes, and he moves Israel to a war footing to expand his geopolitical influence in the region. David had determined to take action, and the Lord said, in effect, “Okay, your will be done.” When human beings speak that phrase to God, the final result is good, always. When God speaks that phrase to human beings, things will not end well.
Re:Verse passage – 2 Samuel 20 (day three)
“We have no share in David.”
For every instance of soldiers’ and priests’ loyalty to the crown, murder and treachery from the top down poisoned the monarchy. For every battle won in the field, a skirmish on the home front caused paroxysms of family suffering. For every season of righteous ruling, rebels hostile to Judah threatened to fracture the kingdom. That’s some golden age. Turns out hindsight does not guarantee clear vision. We want to celebrate David as the ideal king. The real King David is far less worthy of laud and honor. What we’re left with as a legacy worth pursuing is not his exploits, but his question arising from the tattered remains of every disaster in his lifetime: Where is God?
Re:Verse passage – 2 Samuel 18 (day three)
“Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.”
Absalom has committed an act of sedition and now leads a coup against the throne. David, though, speaks as if his son has committed a social faux pas: “You know these kids today.” David loved the idea of Absalom. That’s a problem, because the actual Absalom could barely even get an audience with the king. And now the actual Absalom was poised to kill them all. To say that’s David’s fault is to ignore the complexities of human families in a corrupted world. But can we all please learn to invite a little more clear-eyed and courageous realism into our lives?
Re:Verse passage – 2 Samuel 16 (day three)
“It may be that the Lord will see my distress and repay me with good.”
David cut his teeth on the outlaw kind of life. Then he became king—ruling with righteousness and justice, fashioning Israel into a formidable presence on the world stage, giving shape and direction to their national spiritual life. He also became different, and not always in a good way. Now here he is, once again leading a band on the run. Remarkably, he may be more recognizable to us in this mode than he was at the height of his power. Back again are the familiar characteristics—headlong flight, loyal men, intel that may or may not be reliable, and most of all, that poignant, simple, ragged humility that yearns for some word from God. That’s how we first knew David. And that’s his lasting legacy.
Re:Verse passage – 2 Samuel 15 (day three)
“Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him.”
No, this is not a report chronicling yet another person announcing a candidacy in the run-up to primary season. But seriously, folks, how does someone become famous? How does someone become an odds-on favorite in politics or entertainment or in any kind of contested public endeavor? If you want to be the winner, you put yourself out there. You bootstrap it. You do the PR. You rent the billboard, you build the website. You shake the hands and kiss the babies. You give the people what they want, and they’ll give you what you want. And then, just like that, you’ll be swept away by the next big thing.
Re:Verse passage – 2 Samuel 13:1-33 (day three)
“Jonadab was a very shrewd man.”
Mercenary, opportunist, chameleon: Meet Jonadab, advisor to cads, keeper of scuttlebutt, guardian of plausible deniability. One day he’s advising Amnon on exactly how to trap and rape Tamar, another day he’s filling the role of king-whisperer as the only one who has the straight story to calm an increasingly panicked David amid an onslaught of fake news in the wake of events provoked by the trapping and raping of Tamar. Jonadab was there at the hatching of the sexual assault plan; he was there to soothe souls in the aftermath of sexual assault revenge. He sprang into action whenever he saw that he could be useful. Amnon liked having him around, wouldn’t you think? David probably did, too. Everybody spoke well of him. It seems Jesus had something to say about that kind of thing.
Re: Verse reading—2 Samuel 12:1-23 (day three)
“By doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt.”
The enemies of Israel—who were also the enemies of the Lord as he worked in, and in behalf of, the nation—already held Israel in disdain. There was also always a possibility, though, that these enemies would come to see and fear and obey God. The larger vision of the Old Testament often gives voice to this hope. Now with David’s actions, the future just got that much less hopeful. Of all people, David stood in position to open doors, but he could just as easily shut them. He did exactly that, and this grieved God, much like it grieved Jesus centuries later to witness the Pharisees’ continual shutting of the door of the kingdom in men’s faces. Slamming doors rouse God’s anger.
Re:Verse passage – 2 Samuel 11 (day three)
“Say this to encourage Joab.”
In bravery and artistry and ability to inspire loyalty, David literally ruled. His possession of such characteristics makes his abuse of those qualities that much more depressing. The sense of the scripture is that Uriah the Hittite was a consummate soldier—skilled, courageous, and devoted to his king. David understood Joab’s likely mood of displeasure and disquiet at losing a trooper like Uriah. David’s indiscretion meant taking care of business to cover his tracks, but at the same time, he risked his general’s disgruntlement. Let’s get this straight: David used his unparalleled leadership skills to comfort the commander of the nation’s fighting forces in the wake of a killing David arranged of that commander’s finest soldier in order to conceal his own misdeed. Right. This is what David’s stewardship of his God-given abilities had come to.
Re:Verse passage – 2 Samuel 8 (day three)
“David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people.”
David had many toxic character attributes. Some of them appeared to diminish over time, but others were distressingly present all of his life. And yet, the Bible makes much of David as a “man after God’s own heart.” Does the Bible simply whitewash his destructive and dangerous tendencies? Does it declare that “Kings will be kings?” Not at all. Here’s why the scriptures associate justice and righteousness with David: Every time David got lost, he would eventually ask, in one way or another, “Where might I find God?” There’s a difference between saying, “We need to turn this country back to God,” and “Where is God?” David lived his life by the latter question.
Re:Verse passage – 2 Samuel 7 (day three)
“Then King David went in and sat before the Lord.”
Imagine a trusted advisor—one who knows you well, knows the people and financial and social realities surrounding you, and is a highly-sought-after consultant in economic, diplomatic, military, and civil matters. What if this advisor informs you that every indicator in your life and work signals that you’re directing your affairs well—and that if you continue to direct your life and steward your resources in the way you have up to now, there is every reason to believe that for generations to come a peaceful and secure future awaits you, your family, and all those for whom you are responsible? How would you respond? Fear of failure? Fear of catastrophic loss? Fear of your own inadequacies? David responded with wonder at the Lord’s kindness, and wonder led him into confidence.