Thursday, August 25, 2011

Kings and Criminals

Today's passage:  I Samuel 20
     One of the greatest fears of my life is to be the victim of a violent crime.  I have been afraid of many things over the years, but little fills me with as much trembling as that thought.  Of course, I have great fears for my children as well, but concerning my own person, the violent crime thing still tops my list.  That's not to say I am not afraid of other events, but I give myself credit that I could keep panic from setting in during other situations.  Perhaps it is my greatest fear because I'm fearful how I would react.  Perhaps it makes me fearful because I am not sure I could respond with grace.  I pray I never have to find out.
     I am trying to get into David's head.  I am wondering why the shepherd boy who had slain a lion, a bear, a giant,  and two hundred Philistines should be afraid of the king of Israel?  There is no question that David is afraid.  He tells Jonathan, "there is but a step between me and death".  And he is right.  Saul is determined to kill him.  But David had already been anointed by Samuel as the next king.  How could he think God had changed His plans?  Fearfulness causes us to do a lot of crazy things.  It just seems strange that David would be fearful of Saul. 
     I think the difference is, Saul was God's anointed at this time.  He sat on the throne, and as far as David is concerned, that means God's hand is upon him.  David had nothing to fear against the Philistines, because they were God's enemy, he would not be afraid to take their lives, because he knew he was in the right.  David had a holy respect and reverence toward the man God had placed on the throne of Israel.  This was who God intended to reign, and David felt defenseless because he would not harm the man God anointed as king. 
     David was not sure if he was right in this situation.  The uncertainty of whether he was in God's will, caused David to be fearful.  David makes a few missteps in this chapter because he was afraid.  Who of us wouldn't?  I have made some wrong decisions because I was fearful, and it takes a real calming of the Spirit to proceed cautiously but wisely.
     When we are fearful, we tend to take matters into our own hands.  David is certain that if he goes to dinner that night, it will be his last supper.  He devises a lie to find out Saul's intentions towards him.  Several times in the Bible, we see how people in the Bible tell a "little white lie".  I don't think I really need to go there.  I think we all know lying under any circumstances is wrong, but God is merciful to us.  We do have to be careful because it is not something we want to make as a continual pattern in our lives, especially when we are afraid.  I don't know how God would have handled the situation, but I know we will never find out since this is the way David chose to handle the matter.  What is more disconcerting, is that he persuades Jonathan to tell the lie for him.  This will put Jonathan in great jeopardy.  Fearfulness blinds us to the danger to which we expose other people.
     Being afraid will cause us to doubt whether we are in God's will.  We assume that if we are in dangerous circumstances, we must be doing something wrong.  David says, "if there be in me iniquity, slay me thyself".  We should search ourselves often.  But if the Lord does not reveal to us that we are involved in sin, we should not automatically assume that God is punishing us, or trying to probe a confession like a detective in an interrogation room.  God doesn't always put us in a frightening situation because He wants to scare the sin out of us.
     Fear caused David to doubt the person he trusted most.  Jonathan had to convince David that he was not involved in a murder plot against him.  David knew this deep down, but nervous anxiety gnawed at him to need Jonathan's reassurance.  Jonathan does, and perhaps this is also why he is willing to lie for David, to prove his loyalty.  This put Jonathan in an awful predicament, and an unfair one too.  Jonathan should not have to prove his friendship, but he loved his friend, understood his fear, and was willing to go the extra mile for him.
Jonathan sends a message to David by shooting an arrow--Taken from Standard Bible Story Reader, Book Three
By Lillie A. Faris, Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
The Standard Publishing Company, 1926
     Jonathan says something that I think is very telling.  He tells David, "and the LORD be with thee, as he hath been with my father."  Saul must have put on a show as being very Godly.  The Lord has not been with Saul for a very long while, He has even promised to take Saul off the throne.  Yet, this is Jonathan's father, and he sees God's hand on him.  I'm thinking, if I were David I would tell Jonathan to take back that statement, because if God has been with Saul these last several years, I would rather take my chances on my own.  I'm not sure how the temper tantrums and mood swings still signaled godliness to these two men but I guess since Saul remains on the throne, they assume God is still with him.  God has still allowed him to reign, but I don't think God is still with him.  This is what can make us the most fearful, when we look at circumstances in life, and make assumptions.      
     David and Jonathan assume that because God had not removed Saul from the throne, he was in the right, and they were in the wrong.  God has His own timetable.  God has His own reasons for doing things, and it is not for us to find out why.  If He chooses to reveal His reasoning to us, He will.  In the meantime, we have to trust God.  What does that mean?  I'm going to make up a word.  Trusting God is what I will call a genericalization.  A what?  You know, one of those intangible statements we make to assure people, but really have no idea how to explain.  Trust God.  How do I do that? Maybe instead of saying that I should say: Remember God's promises.  That is something tangible.  Go to His Word, and list all of the places where He says how He will protect us, how He will take care of us.  David's psalms are a great resource for those kinds of verses.  Reading this chapter in I Samuel, I think he knew a little bit about being frightened and depending on the God he could not see to help him.  But what if trusting God means death? For David, he was not so sure it didn't.  God has promised me a home in Heaven if I have accepted His Son as my Savior.  What is so fearful about that?  That is a promise our Christian brothers and sisters in Indonesia, Syria, and Libya are trusting in today.  If that is not God's plan, if there is more than one step between me and death, than I just keep taking a step each day, doing what He has asked me to do, waiting for Him to reveal the rest.
     If I am ever faced with a hardened criminal who wants to take my purse at gunpoint, or threaten to do me bodily harm (thoughts which make my blood run cold) I would need to remember God's promises.  He doesn't promise me that I will never be harmed, He promises me that in some way I don't understand He will sustain me, He will get me through, He will be with me.  If I survive the situation, He has promised me I can endure it.  If I don't survive, He has promised me I will be with Him.  I am fearful because I don't think I can endure, which means I am fearful that God will not keep His Word.  But He always does.  So perhaps, that is the crux of David's fears.  He is afraid God did not mean what He said when He told David he would someday be king.  David is afraid that God will not keep His promise to him.  David is afraid that he has failed Him in some way that would constitute God going back on His Word.  I may have to remind myself what He has said, but I will never have to remind Him.  In David's life, a king was scarier than a giant.  He was sure what God had promised against the giant, but he was a little less sure what God had promised against the king.  But God's promise is the same.  He will go with me. No giant, king or criminal can dispute that.

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