Friday, December 16, 2011

Tall Tale Two

Today's passage:  II Samuel 21:15-22
     David is not a young man anymore.  I have to respect that he still goes out to battle with his men.  Maybe after the incident with Bathsheba, he determined that he would never stay home for a battle again.  Only nowadays, David's age is starting to show.  His sword feels heavier, difficult to wield.  His steps more uncertain, wobbly even.  He is not agile as he was in his youth.  He has to sit down to rest more.  But when do you have a chance to rest during a battle?  As much as his men probably appreciate having their king willing to lay down his own life in these attempts, he's slowing them down.  He has become more of a hindrance than an asset.
     In this passage, the Philistines continue to harass the Israelites.  They will never believe that Israel has a right to all that land.  They will never believe that Israel has a more powerful God.  He may have been more powerful on the day Goliath was killed, but that was only one day.  Goliath's brother and I assume a few of his sons (they are referred to as the sons of the giant) have a personal vendetta against David.  Goliath's brother would not forget that day.  I don't know how old Goliath's sons may have been at the time, but if they were not old enough to see their father fall, they had heard their uncle's version numerous times.  Here, they had the opportunity to personally see their dreams of destroying David realized.  And Ishbi-benob, the one son, nearly accomplishes it.  It says he was "girded with a new sword" and I'm not sure if that means this is his first arena of battle or if he had his weapon freshened for this occasion. Venom is flowing from this man.  He blames David for the years without his father.  He had no more learned the lesson than Goliath had.  The problems the Philistines had were not Israel's fault (See A Truly Tall Tale).  Now it would have made a great movie reel if David destroyed all these enemies.  But I think his fighting days are over.  He has mighty men to do that job for him.  And they do an excellent job.
David faces Goliath with his sling--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 

     But it makes me wonder.  How must David have felt?  There he is, back against the rocks, unable to really defend himself anymore.  He braces himself for the blow of the sword when the giant topples over.  One of David's mighty men has rescued him.  In his younger days, David would have been the rescuer.  He had been Israel's hero.  Being king seemed infinitely more significant, but people did not always love kings.  They always loved heroes.  Perhaps knowing Goliath's kin would be in this fight is all the more reason David decided to show up.  Maybe he thought he could recapture the glory days when he had first become a national figure.  When the country was singing about his killing Saul's ten thousands.  Now somebody was killing David's ten thousands.  Did it make him sympathize with Saul a little bit?  Did he understand Saul's jealousy of a younger warrior?
     David was beginning to understand that God had already used his past, he would not get that back.  His present was a little messed up.  Failures had caused complications for him.  But there was still his future.  Could an old man do anything for God?  Any man (or woman) no matter the age can do something for God, if they are yielded to Him.  I started to realize I was getting older as a counselor in the youth group when I was grumpy after overnight lock-ins.  I used to love that kind of thing (when I was younger).  I know I'm getting older when make-up doesn't hide the laugh lines anymore, when plucking gray hairs now takes longer than if I would just cover them up, when amusement park rides give me more vertigo than butterflies.
     David's future is a question mark.  It doesn't mean he is finished.  It doesn't mean his best years are behind him, it just means his youngest years are.  Realizing youth is past is not a pleasant discovery.  I'm still reconciling myself to the fact that I'm middle-aged.  I feel younger than I look.  But I wouldn't trade the maturity and wisdom I have gained as I have gotten older.  And though David has had a lot of regret, I'm guessing he has learned a lot and wouldn't trade those experiences either.

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