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2 Samuel 6: Michal

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Tissot: Michal Despises David

Yesterday we spent time with the opening portion of this chapter; today we focus on the rest of the story.  Just as we are given an opportunity to see the realities of life in the story of Uzzah, we are given the chance to see our own reality in the story of Michal.

It has been noted that Michal is the only woman in scripture described as loving a man who does not love her in return.  As with many women in scripture she is used by a pawn. In this case it is her father and husband who exploit Michal . . . the two men closest to her . . . the two men charged with her protection.  Again as a child I saw her circumstances as out of her own control and I saw her life as one of deepest betrayal.  As with the tale of Uzzah, we turn to commentary to ask why in 1 Samuel 19 to find that David and Michal had pagan statues in their household and we might nod smugly and knowingly and comment that perhaps she suffered for bringing idol-worship into her home.  If we spend time reading the scattered fragments of Michal’s story we pull together the threads of her life.  As a child I saw her as a victim; as an adult I understand that there are far too many circumstances beyond Michal’s control and I watch as she sees all her dreams melt away into nothing.  I begin to understand how her passion becomes loathing.

As we grow in God’s love begin to understand that with mercy there are no bounds; we see that justice is best delivered in God’s time and according to God’s plan; we know that love carries with it the dark potential to become great hatred unless it is founded in God.  As with the story of Uzzah yesterday, we see that life defies description.  Again we learn that what looks correct may not always be correct.  And we feel the full force of the lesson that we cannot make events occur nor can we prevent circumstances from overtaking us.  We can rest only in the surety that God is in us, that we are in God, and that our relationship with God is the only eternal and permanent promise that matters.

Uzzah, Michal and David teach us much.  Their stories might embolden or frighten us.  Their circumstances may cheer us or depress us.  Their lives may dissolve or transform us.  But in all of this, as we examine the lives of Uzzah, Michal and David . . . we have much to think about today.


A re-post from October 15, 2012.

Image from: https://www.artbible.info/art/large/717.html

To learn more about Michal and to put her story together, go to: http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/michal-bible or http://www.alabaster-jars.com/biblewomen-m.html or http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/Women-Of-The-Bible/a/021511-CW-Michal.htm

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2 Samuel 6: Part I: Uzzah

Monday, November 4, 2019

In several places, this chapter calls us to pause for reflection: We watch as Uzzah is struck down by the Lord, and we witness the turning of Michal’s love for her husband David turn to hatred.  Commentary will guide us through these puzzles but we are left with the lingering thought that there are always many ways to read the story of David.

We know that David’s life is full of ups and downs – just like our own.  We know that David feels the call of God and the call of the world – just like our own.  And we know that David is both strong and vulnerable – just as are we.  We might learn something about ourselves once we spend time with this story today.

Scholars explain the punishment of Uzzah saying that he had become too familiar with the ark since it had remained in his father’s house for some time.  Others say that he did not trust the Lord to rescue his own dwelling place, the Ark.  Some say that we must learn from this incident that we are to never question the clear authority of God.  And yet others say that we are to learn that we must practice acting in due time, listening for God’s call, and living in God’s plan.

I remember hearing this story as a child and thinking that it may have been possible that Uzzah had misunderstood God.  Perhaps he thought God asked him to reach out to steady the ark when in fact he had said that Uzzah ought not touch the cart.  In my child’s mind the world was black and white: we do what our elders tell us and all goes well.  In my adult life I know that life is much more complicated than this.  As we grown in God we learn that obeying rules does not keep us safe.  We discover that life does not follow guidelines and that it defies logic.  We understand that we must be grateful for all that goes well; we know that there are no guarantees; and we see that the innocent will often suffer unjustly.  We come to understand that rules and laws do not save us . . . that God is the only safety net we can trust.

David and Uzzah teach us all of this today when we allow this story to speak to us.


A re-post from October 14, 2012.

For more on Uzzah, click on the image above or go to: http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/death-and-the-dance-david-uzzah-and-the-ark-robert-leroe-sermon-on-gods-holiness-48196.asp and http://www.lookingfortigger.com/2012/06/12/the-uzzah-incident/

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Ezekiel 27: Tyre

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Hot Springs and Arena in Ancient Tyre

Tyre is a city off the southern coast of present day Lebanon and it is linked to the mainland by a causeway, or siege ramp, built by Alexander the Great at the end of the fourth BCE.  It consists of both a mainland city and an island, has two harbors and most likely because of its vantage point, it was the leading city of Phoenicia in the millennium before Christ.  One can read about the early kings of Tyre in the works of the Jewish historian Josephus but it becomes important for scripture readers when Hiram, the king of Tyre, provides pine and the renowned tall cedars to David and Solomon for use in the construction of the Jerusalem palace and temple.  Tyre is eventually invaded and destroyed by the Babylonians.

Tyre is also famous as the hometown of Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, who convinced her husband to take over the vineyards of the peaceful man Naboth, who persecuted prophets, lured her husband into worshiping the gods of the Baals, and who came to an ugly death . . . just as had been predicted by prophets.  (1 Kings Chapters 16, 18, 19, 21 and 2 Kings 9)  Hers is a fascinating story of meteoric beauty, power and fame.  She was a princess of Tyre, rising and falling in a quick but dramatic arc across ancient history.

In today’s reading we read a lament for Tyre and a prediction of her downfall, with the wreck of the ship and all she carries as allegory.  The HARPER COLLINS COMMENTARY describes this oracle as beautifully crafted, and Ezekiel laments the anticipated destruction of Tyre at the hands of the Babylonians.   This perfect, proud and stately beauty is lost to the storm and settles forever at the bottom of the sea. Thou art brought to nothing, and thou shalt never be anymore.

So much pride lost, so much sorrow experienced, so much pain endured.  Yet in today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation we read: The heart of man, so deep for misery, is deeper far for happiness!  Misery comes to him from accident, happiness from his nature and his predestination.  Father Henri-Dominique Lacordaire

We are creatures meant for joy, not for sorrow.  We are children meant for resurrection, not for darkness.  We brothers and sisters of the same father meant for life, not for death.


Written on April 12, 2008  and posted today as a Favorite. 

To learn more about ancient Tyre click on the image above or go to: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/611914/Tyre

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 1203. Print.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation for the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 4.12 (2008): 129-130. Print.  

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2 Samuel 13Seeking Intimacy

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Desire, love, lust.  Lashing back in hurt and surprise, angry retaliation, calculated revenge.  Family relations churn and twist as we read this story which is similar and yet different from the stories of Bathsheba and Dinah, as the HARPER COLLINS COMMENTARY points out.  Family values and family sickness shatter human lives as these people roil in deceit and turmoil.  David, the father, king and leader, does nothing . . . can do nothing . . . but watch as his family self destructs – for he himself is culpable.  As the commentary states: David’s hands are tied because his sons are merely mimicking his own sick behavior.  These people seek intimacy with one another and with God . . . and do not find it . . . because they look in the wrong place.  True intimacy lies in the process, in the journey, in the progress of the soul.

From today’s MAGNIFICAT:

There are two messages today: first, we have to hold on to absolute responsibility for real order and commitment to the Lord God.  Second, the fundamental character of life is a true waiting, hard for Occidentals to comprehend, especially for modern people.  Life means waiting, not Faust-like grasping, but waiting and being ready.  We are waiting for the terror of the night, and waiting for the day when this terror will have passed.  “The people will languish from fearful expectation”.  Anyone who remains stuck, waiting in fearful expectation just to see whether or not he will survive, has not yet laid bare the innermost strata.  For the fearful expectation was sent to us in order to remove our false sense of security and behind it is this other metaphysical waiting that is part of existence.  Man is always in danger of rooting himself, of running aground.  Over and over again, life will shake anyone who waits in that way, in order to make him hurry out to meet what is coming.  Then what vitality he has been given will come to life.  Then he will feel that life goes above and beyond individual lives.  Only in this way will he be truly human, by living above and beyond himself, waiting for the final reality.  That is the reason for this striving and seeking further and knowing it will one day come: to wait until the lights flare up. 

We have more expectation than earth can grant, because what we encounter in only a piece of reality, a piece of creation.  We are waiting for the fulfillment of a promise: You will one day possess all this because God, as God, is himself reality, realness, and intimacy.

Father Alfred Delp, S.J.  – condemned to death in Germany in 1945

If we might only think about the dual choice that faces us daily – complaining or rejoicing.

If we might only seek what is best for us today – our singular selves or our unity with God.

If we might only become one with God today . . . and all days . . . how much better we might see God’s creation and our place in it.


For some beautiful images of God’s creation in the Canadian Rockies visit Patrick Latter’s Photography blog at: http://hikingphoto.com/ or click on the image above.

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Meditation for the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 1 July 2008. Print.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 270-271. Print.

Image from: http://hikingphoto.com/

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2 Samuel 2: Abner

First Sunday of Lent, March 10, 2019

Abner

Written on March 5, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Abner was Saul’s general – a courageous and loyal man.  He found himself serving Saul at the time that the power and prestige of the House of Saul was waning while that of the House of David was waxing.  After Saul’s death, Abner and David reconcile, but one of Saul’s remaining sons, Ishbaal, trumps up charges about Abner and Rizpah (one of Saul’s concubines).  We see peace and unity again threatened by plotting and division.  Abner is murdered, David laments.  We can see what happens to Ishbaal in the next chapter, but what we see here is an ever-resent theme in the human drama: Humans always seem to succumb to envy and greed.

What do I do when I meet the Abners, Ishbaals, Joabs, Davids and Sauls in my life?  What do I do when presented with the possibility of union with people from whom I have (with good cause) previously kept my distance?  How do I know if an enemy heart has been converted?  How do I respond to the hand offered in peace?  How do I know if that hand is truly offered in peace?  We do not have the human answers to these questions; but we know what we must do.  We must trust God.

From today’s morning prayers and readings:

Isaiah 40:1: Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem . . .

Isaiah 49:13: The Lord comforts his people and shows mercy to his afflicted.

Psalm 103: The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy.

Psalm 145: The Lord is faithful in all his words and holy in all his works.  The Lord lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.  The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.

We have no way of reading human hearts and minds.  We can rely on our gut reactions to people and circumstances, we can imagine what someone may be thinking or doing . . . but we cannot know for certainty what occurs deep within someone else’s mind, heart and soul.  That is for God to know . . . that is for God to handle.

David and Abner

In today’s reading, David asks that the Lord requite the evildoers in accordance with the sin committed.  This is an Old Testament response.  We are New Testament people, so how do we respond to acts of betrayal?  By moving into intercessory prayer for those who have done us harm, by relying on the goodness and mercy and justice of our God, by asking for this mercy and justice for ourselves and for our enemies.

The Lord is faithful in all his words and holy in all his works.  

We are God’s word as adopted brothers and sisters of Christ.  We are God’s works in this world where we have been planted.  How do we respond to the Abners, Joabs and Ishbaals in our lives?


For more on this story click on the images above or go to: http://patty-patcards.blogspot.com/2010/12/people-multiple-choice-in-what-city-did.html and http://sharingknowledge.org/wb/pages/bible-studies/history-of-the-characters-of-the-bible/king-david.php#wb_section_423

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 3.5 (2008). Print.  

A re-post from March 10, 2012.

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1 Samuel 24Escape

Monday, November 19, 2018

Rembrandt: Saul and David

Several weeks ago, we reflected on celebrating escape from something or someone who would have brought us great ruin or harm.  Yesterday’s Gospel gave us the opportunity to examine how Jesus is able to escape the traps laid for him by those who hated him.  Today we take a look at a small portion of the story of David, the young man who is designated as King of Israel by Samuel but who waits his turn as leader of God’s chosen people by resisting the temptation to fight against Saul.  David does not deny that he has been chosen King, nor does he murder Saul in order to take what is his; rather, he abides in God’s will and God’s time . . . and he takes the routes of escape that God offers while he actively waits on the fulfillment of God’s plan.

Today we read the story of how God saved his imperfect yet faithful servant and we are no less than David.

Today we read the story of how David relied on his God’s constancy . . . and he did not allow fear to turn him toward revenge or cowardice.

In yesterday’s Gospel (Matthew 22:15-21) we read the story of how Jesus confronted prejudice and hatred and we do well to follow his example.

In yesterday’s Gospel we were given a road map for how to escape manipulation and scheming.  We must rely on God always, remain faithful to the covenant God shares with us, and always act in love and for love of God.  In this way we will always know escape from anything danger or evil that hopes to overtake us.

And so we pray . . .

When the call to do God’s work pulls us into alien and dangerous territory, we must rely on God’s wisdom and not our own.

When the hand of God heals us and then sends us out to do God’s work, we must rely on God’s fidelity and nurture our own.

When the voice of God urges us to work in fields are that unfamiliar to us and that sap our energy, we must rely on God’s strength and conserve our own.

When the heart of God sends us to work with those who would do us harm, we must rely on God’s love and hope for redemption.   Amen.


A re-post from October 17, 2011. 

Images from: http://www.aaroneberline.com/blog/tag/david/ and http://www.artbible.info/art/large/378.html

 

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2 Samuel 10Open to Failure

Monday, October 15, 2018

Dorè: David Attacks the Ammonites

We might take a lesson from both David and the Ammonites today; and each of these lessons will save us suffering if we can be open to their message.  From the Ammonites who expect insult and war, we see that when we take a bellicose stance, we guarantee our suffering.  It seems we humans are often eager to fulfill our own dark hope.  Nestled against Israel’s eastern boundary, this tribe may have felt a kind of national inferiority.  Along with the Moabites, these descendents of Lot struggled to maintain peace within and along their borders.  Rightly or wrongly, the young king Hanun took an aggressive stance against David when he rejected David’s offer of amity and instead sought allegiance against Israel with the Arameans, another small kingdom to the north.  All hope for independence is dashed and in the end these Ammonites – whose rudeness stirs the Israelites to revenge – becomes subject to Israel, and the Arameans stand down from their aggressive posture.  We can never know if David somehow plotted in hopes that this scheme would bring him a vassal state; but we can easily see that the ultimate outcome for the Ammonites was the same – or perhaps even worse.  When we expect insult and take a bellicose stance, we guarantee our suffering.

Van Honthorst: King David Playing the Harp

The major player in this reading is, of course, David and from him today we might learn: We are most open to failure when we are at our most secure.  From the HarperCollins Bible Commentary, “If, on the one hand, we think of the Ammonite war as after the events of chap. 8, we are struck by the rapidity with which what appeared secure has again become a threat. If, on the other hand, we read the war account as a flashback, we may be struck by the irony of the context in which David’s adultery and murder have been set.  It is at the very peak of his power, when YHWY is giving him victory wherever he goes (8:14), that the king most conspicuously fails.  Security breeds insecurity; success incubates failure.  It is as the gift of the kingdom is being made complete that YHWY’s chosen one chooses to grasp most rapaciously what is not his to grasp.  In short, it is at his most secure that David turns out to be most open to failure”.  (Mays 269)

We know this statement to be true if we take an honest look at our own lives and at the lives of friends and enemies.  Cinema and literature reinforce the universal concept that we learn from our mistakes rather than our successes.  We also know that we are most conciliatory, most ready to listen, and most open to change when we are faced with multiple obstacles; and that we are most closed, most deaf to common sense, and most eager to control our environment and others when we are at the peak of accomplishment.  All of this is perhaps because we have forgotten some central truths: that God is the author of all good, that we can choose to enter into this goodness with God or we can choose reject God in the belief that we alone are responsible for all that has gone well in our lives.  In short, it is at our most secure that we turn out to be most open to failure.

In David’s actions and thinking, and in the actions and thinking of the Ammonites, we discover the hidden pitfalls of success and promises of disappointment.  We find an openness to failure that is certain to bring great pain and a guarantee of hardship and suffering.  None of this suggests that success is something to be avoided or that failure is the mark of holiness.  On the contrary, we experience happiness and joy despite our failures and along with our successes at precisely those times when we nurture an openness to God and forego our natural tendency to remain open to failure.


A re-post from September 12, 2011.

For more information about the Ammonites we might take a look at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01431b.htm and http://www.bible-history.com/geography/maps/map_of_ammonites_territory.html. OR https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ammonite 

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 269. Print.

Images from: http://www.mundellchristianchurch.com/art/2Sam-12-David-Attacks-the-Ammonites.html

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2 Samuel 19:2-15Dreams Unrealized 

Monday, June 25, 2018

David evidently was in denial about his son Absalom.  All we need do to read about this young man’s abuse of the status and power given to him is leaf back a few pages to Chapters 13 through 18 to read the details of his story.  It is not positive.  Yet, David mourns the loss of this child, ignoring the horror that Absalom played out even against his own father.  We watch David struggle with the reality he does not want to see and now in this reading we watch David give over to his grief completely.  We wonder . . . does he mourn the loss of what actually was?  Or does he mourn the loss of what might have been?  We have no way of knowing.

Joab approaches David with words that eventually bring about a reconciliation between king and people.  His words are harsh and to the point; David comprehends quickly.  The greater offense here seems to be not so much that David mourns the loss of a child but that he appears to be oblivious to the harm this child’s behavior has brought about.   Many of us can identify with this.  We have likely gone to a family member or friend to try to being clarity to a murky situation only to be accused of speaking ill or of causing problems.   When delivering bad news, we must always be prepared to be blamed; and if we are not, we can breathe a sigh of relief and thank God.

In today’s story, David’s fragile state becomes apparent despite Joab’s recalling him to the realities of his role as leader and king.  We may not be as fortunate as Joab; but whether we are believed or rejected, we must consider the difficulty we bring someone when we bring bad news about a loved one; and we must deliver our words carefully.  If we are the ones who receive this bad news . . . we must be prepared to see another’s reality or else . . .  Not a single man will remain with you overnight, and this will be a far greater disaster for you than any that has afflicted you from your youth until now.

Whether we be Joab or David, we do well to remember that dreams fulfilled are welcome allies while dreams not realized are formidable enemies.  If we hope to step out to sit at the gate as David does, if we hope to bring the dreadful truth to someone so that it is heard as Joab does . . . we do well to enter the interaction carefully, and always include God in the exchange.   Only then can we hope for reconciliation.


We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on June 25, 2011.

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1 Samuel 29: Among the Enemy

Philistine captives being led away after their failed invasion of Egypt, from a relief at Ramses III’s mortuary temple at Medinet Habu, Thebes, Egypt. (Britannica online)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The stories in 1 and 2 Samuel are intriguing if we take the time to pause with them; and over the past weeks we have considered the variety of ways God speaks to us. We have paused to reflect on how we might hear, and then heed, God’s Word. Today it is the story of David, Achish, the Philistine King of Gath, and the Philistines.

Many of us perceive the Philistines as enemies of the Jewish people. As a noun describing characteristics, we define a philistine as a: a person who is guided by materialism and is usually disdainful of intellectual or artistic values, or b: one uninformed in a special area of knowledge”. (Merriam Webster Online) No matter the context, we understand that David and his men align with Achish in order to somehow endure the wrath of Saul. And we further understand that the Philistine chieftains reject this small band who are trying to survive in a brutal world. The ancient order reflects our own as we too struggle to make and maintain alliances, as we look for connections and coalitions.

Archaeological findings at Gath

What might we learn from David’s dilemma today? That at times we are required to lie among the enemy. And at times even the enemy rejects us.

To learn more about the Philistine people, visit the Britannica at: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Philistine-people

To learn more about Achish and Gath, use the links to explore, or visit: https://www.bibleplaces.com/gath/

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