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Posts Tagged ‘David’


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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Psalm 89: A Hymn in Time of National Struggle – Part IV

Friday, January 26, 2018

Rembrandt van Rijn: The Reconciliation of David and Absalom (2 Samuel 14)

Finding the Servant

Perhaps the most heartbreaking part in the story of David’s rise and reign is the accounting of his son Absalom. As Nathan had predicted, this favored child hatches a plot to do away with his father. In Chapters 16-17 we see the counselor Ahitophel create double deceit as the writer records, Any advice that Ahithophel gave in those days was accepted as though it were the very word of God; both David and Absalom followed it. Later we read that Ahithophel takes his own life (2 Samuel 17:23) and we consider, when we plot to take down our enemies, are we prepared to have that plot turn against us?

Men prepare for conflict. The battle ensues and Absalom dies. Messages fly. David mourns and shames the soldiers who have saved him and the city. The world turns on its head. David’s nephew Joab steps in to bring the world back into focus and life settles into a series of defensive moves in which David maintains the kingdom in a series of skirmishes and disagreements. In the closing chapters of this long tale we read the beautiful song of this faithful servant’s thanksgiving. And so we consider, when we reflect on our lives with all of its peaks and valleys, can we recognize God as our rock, fortress, deliverer and refuge, or do we curse our circumstances and blame bad fortune on others?

Francesco Pesellino: The Death of Absalom

Samuel, David, Bathsheba, Nathan, Joab, Ahithophel, Uzza and so many others paint a canvas for us of the faithful servant who stumbles and recovers . . . many times. Through all of this, our loving God  pardons, heals and always abides. In a time when the word of the Lord is rare and visions are scarce in our lives, we might find ourselves in this story. We might listen for God’s voice as we step forward in faithful service.

We hear this story . . . we take it in . . . and then we reply with the psalmist and King David . . . O Lord, I will always sing of your constant love; I will proclaim your faithfulness forever.

Compare other translations of these verses by using the scripture links and drop-down menus. 

Click on the image of David and Absalom for more insights into this story.

To visit the Prayer for Faithful Servants post on this blog, go to: https://thenoontimes.com/2014/03/30/a-prayer-for-faithful-servants/

Tomorrow, God among us.

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Psalm 89: A Hymn in Time of National Struggle – Part III

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Peter Frederick Rothermel: Thou Art the Man (2 Samuel 12:7)

Finding the Servant

Moving forward into 2 Samuel, we see that King Saul and his son Jonathan die, the former David’s nemesis, the latter David’s dearest friend. Ordering the execution of the messenger who brings him this news, David says, You brought this on yourself. You condemned yourself when you confessed that you killed the one whom the Lord chose to be king. And so we consider, when we navigate the turbulent waters of national conflict, do we live by the standards of our times or do we open our hearts to other ways?

Following instructions and bolstered by the Lord, the young king leads his troops in victory as they bring the Ark back to Jerusalem. We might pause in chapter 6 for the accounting of Uzzah who acts in his own time rather than God’s; and we watch David move forward cautiously in the arc of his reign. In Chapter 7, David prays, Sovereign Lord! What more can I say to you! You know me, your servant. It was your will and purpose to do this; you have done all these great things in order to instruct me. How great you are, Sovereign LordAnd so as we reflect we consider, Do we add to the violence or do we work for the way of peace?

Juan Gimenez Martin: In the Harem

In Chapters 11 and 12, we discover that the gifted and blessed young king succumbs to the easy temptation of deceit, infidelity, betrayal and even murder. The prophet Nathan uses a parable to bring David to the reality of his offenses. Nathan said to David. “This is what the Lord God of Israel says: I made you king of Israel and rescued you from Saul. I gave you his kingdom and his wives; I made you king over Israel and Judah. If this had not been enough, I would have given you twice as much. Why, then, have you disobeyed my commands? David confesses and repents, and then he hears the news that darkness will cloud his own future. The intertwining lives of David, Nathan, Bathsheba, Uriah and the yet unborn sons Solomon and Absalom play out before us. And so as we reflect we consider, Do we add to the violence we experience or do we look for the way of peace?

The faithful servant stumbles. Our generous God forgives. Betrayal or fidelity, desperation or hope, hatred or love. Clear choices with difficult paths lie before us when the word of the Lord is rare and visions are scarce in our lives.

We hear this story . . . we take it in . . . and then we reply . . . O Lord, I will always sing of your constant love; I will proclaim your faithfulness forever.

Compare other translations of these verses by using the scripture links and drop-down menus. 

For other reflections on Uzzah and the ox cart, enter his name into the blog search bar and explore.

Tomorrow, God always abides. 

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2 Samuel 14 & 15: Deceit – Part II

Alexandre Cabanel: Thamar

Thursday, November 9, 2017

We see Absalom set himself up as heir to a throne he will not inherit.  We see him strip away all that is holy from his life.  Reading ahead, we see him die a ridiculous death, hanging by his hair from a terebinth tree while one of David’s soldiers runs him through with a spear.  Absalom plots for years to murder his brother for the rape of their sister, Tamar.  Absalom relies on the very human resources of power, looks and cleverness to win for him the vengeful goals he lays out for himself.  It is clear that Absalom does not consult God as he enters into and executes his plans.

Absalom was a prince of a powerful nation.  It was written that: In all of Israel not a man could so be praised for his beauty as Absalom, who was without blemish from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.  (14:25)  But what had become of his soul?  How had the events of his childhood so shaped him to produce such anger?  Why were the gifts he had received from a loving God not enough to please him?  What was it that made him always want more?

Upon his return from exile, Absalom falls to the ground at his father’s feet when he is pardoned.  He then stands, and leaves the palace to set his newest grab for power into motion.  He employs deceit to win friends and enemies alike rather than obedience to God as his game plan.  He relies on his influence and charm . . . and for awhile these tools prove a powerful arsenal; but in the end they are not enough.  In the end, Absalom . . . the master deceiver . . . is himself deceived.  He returns from Geshur and continues to weave the labyrinth of his life with chariots, horses and henchmen all the while forgetting that . . . the proper response to pardon is a grateful heart.  Let us learn a lesson from Absalom’s ruin.

For more information about the people and places in this reflection, visit yesterday’s post, Deceit – Part I. 

A Favorite from November 21, 2008.

 

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2 Samuel 14 & 15: Deceit – Part I

Eustache Le Sueur: The Rape of Tamar

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

David, Amnon, Tamar, AbsalomJoab, the woman from Tekoa, Zadok the priest, Ziba, Ahithophel.  What an amazing cast of characters to play the roles we find in this tale we have visited often – the story of a family fueled by envy, payback, and violence – the story of a family spiraling into self-destruction.  Exile and Return, Forgiveness and Revenge.  These are themes familiar to any people on any day in any generation.  Today’s reading presents us with a window into the lives of several members of Jesus’ family tree as we see them plot and connive with tremendous skill; but eventually we see that gains born of deceit have no place in honest relationships; and this is a lesson we may want to carry into our own most intimate relationships . . . especially our relationship with God.

The first verse in chapter 15 stands out to us: After this Absalom provided himself with chariots, horses, and fifty henchmen.

Absalom returns home after having murdered his brother Amnon, and he is pardoned by his father, King David.  Yet his first act is to begin to lay the ground work to continue his life of deception and connivance.  Clearly he did not learn much during his years in exile in Geshur.  Perhaps he spent them in denial of his own deeds, brooding about how he had been wronged and plotting to continue his revenge . . . rather than spending time in introspection.  Perhaps he nursed his anger, allowing hatred to bloom in his heart . . . in the place where forgiveness rightly dwells.

Tomorrow, a prince of a powerful nation.

A Favorite from November 21, 2008.

 

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1 Samuel 17: The Way of Christ

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Caravaggio: David and Goliath

A Favorite from August 16, 2009.

This is a story we know well, and yet we might want to pause in order to spend time with a few details.

  • Battle armor and brave words do not protect Goliath from the truth of David’s one small stone. We might reflect that . . . bluster, barricades and weapons do not serve us as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • While David’s oldest brothers go off to fight against the Philistines with Saul, David tends his father’s sheep in Bethlehem. We might reflect that . . . although our work may often seem insignificant, it is always on target when we obey God as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David leaves his flock with another shepherd when he takes roasted grain and cheeses to the battlefield for the troops. We might reflect that . . . even in the midst of our work, we must remember to shepherd those who follow us as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David’s brothers are jealous not only of the bravery which stems from David’s special relationship with Yahweh but also because David comes to Saul’s attention for the question he repeatedly asks: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should insult the armies of the living king?” We might reflect that . . . we are often the target of jealousy when we are faithful and courageous as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David says with confidence to Saul: “The Lord, who delivered me from the claws of the lion and the bear, will also keep me safe from the clutches of this Philistine”. We might reflect that . . . we too, may place our hope in God’s promises as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David rejects Saul’s unwieldy warrior garments and tools so that he might take up and use the tools he knows best: smooth stones and his slingshot. We might reflect that . . . rather than arms and physical strength, our petitions of intercession on behalf of our enemies are our most powerful weapons as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David answers the enemy’s challenge with these famous words: “You come against me with sword and spear and scimitar, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of armies of Israel that you have insulted . . . All this multitude, too, shall learn that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he shall deliver you into our hands”. We might reflect that . . . when the crowd jeers and when we appear to be defeated, we too serve as an example of how God saves and restores as we travel along The Way of Christ.  When we rise after apparent defeat, we are justified by God as we travel along The Way of Christ.

This is an old and familiar story against a backdrop of violence, yet it holds simple and valuable lessons for us today.  They are . . .

  • we must believe the story we have heard,
  • we must hope in the promise we have been given, and
  • we must enact love in the world as a sign that . . .
  • we travel along The Way of Christ.

In so doing, the many false and boasting Goliaths who confront us will fall permanently as we journey along The Way of Christ.

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2 Samuel 18: Recklessness

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

kingdavidpalace02_m_0722

King David in Grief

When we examine the story of David and his son Absalom, and see that sometimes we cling to outmoded ideas or dangerous people.  We humans seem to prefer the devil we know to the one we do not.  We make a way to survive with the horror we experience rather than set boundaries against the craziness of the world.  This is the fine line we walk between forgiving transgression and accepting abuse.  This is the difference between pardon and leniency.  It is the distinction we draw between recklessness and prudence.

Absalom is the favored child who does as he likes; he is coddled and feels entitled.  We see many examples of this in our current world – men and women who take what they like from whomever they like, pitted against the innocent who are open and trusting.  It is an uneven match and we wonder why God does not protect the naïve and unknowing more.

In today’s reading we see the dreadful end of Absalom, the favored child who abused his father who had given him so much.  We also watch the mourning of the father who believes he has recently lost a child without understanding that he had lost him years before.

As Jesus reminds us, we cannot put new wine into old skins.  (Matthew 9:14-17, Mark 2:21-22 and Luke 5:33-39) We cannot sew new patches on old sleeves.  We are called by our maker to transform ourselves, to move beyond our old form and style, to become new in Christ.  For just as the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New, as the old Covenant is re-written on the new heart, so are we called to make a place for a clean spirit, so are we called to sit at the city gate to indicate that we have returned – but in a new form.

In this Easter season, let us be determined that when we are fuddled by the line between compassion and acceptance of violence against one’s self, we will examine our lives in light of the Gospel to see if our suffering bears fruit or draws us down.  In recent days at Mass we have been reminded that we are the fruit bearing branches of the vine that is Christ.  We are nothing and do nothing except through the Creator.  There is no secret thought; we keep no actions from the Spirit.  We belong to God and our lives are transformed when we understand this.

From the mini-reflection in today’s MAGNIFICAT we read in reference to Acts 16:1-10: “Day after day the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number”.  This was due in large part to Paul and Timothy’s attentive docility and obedience to the Holy Spirit.  They had been chosen “out of the world” by Jesus.  When we act out of belonging, conscious that we do not “belong to the world”, we change the world”.

And this is how we address the recklessness and violence we see around us.  We take on Christ, we go to the Creator, and we allow our transformation in the Spirit.  In this way, we pray that we do not come to harm when the violence of the world threatens us.  And we pray that when the violence of the world does invade our lives – as it surely will – we will have the courage, strength and clarity to witness with attentive docility and obedience to the Holy Spirit.  We pray that we remind ourselves of our true belonging.  And we pray for the lost souls of those who have been sucked into the cycle of danger and fear.   In this way we change the world.  Amen.

A Favorite from May 8, 2010.

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 8 May 2010. Print.

 

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1 Samuel 13: The Heat of Self-Knowledge – Part I

Monday, October 17, 2016

Benjamin west: Saul and the Witch of Endor

Benjamin West: Saul and the Witch of Endor

As the political season heats up in the U.S., we consider this important story from one of our oldest scriptures.

This is the portion of the Samuel story in which we watch Saul move away from God to begin his long slide into darkness.  This downward movement happens because he presumes to know best.  Saul takes action on his own without waiting for Samuel, who is designated by God as the judge/leader, to offer sacrifice before battle.  Although his son Jonathan and the rest of Saul’s troops have immediate success, Saul himself is eventually lost.  He becomes paranoid about his fear of David (1 Samuel 18) and forces David to flee the court (1 Samuel 19).  He allows his fears to overtake him as when he orders the priest of Nob to be slaughtered (1 Samuel 22) and continues his frenetic search for David in the wilderness (1 Samuel 23).  In his panic he consults with a seer in Endor (1 Samuel 28); and finally he meets his dreadful end (1 Samuel 31) along with his beloved son Jonathon.  This is a sad ending for a man who had shown such promise but who, in the end, did not trust God.  Today we see the beginning of Saul’s long and terrible journey into the dark.  Unwilling to admit his errors or to seek pardon, Saul gives himself over to the fantastical thinking that he knows better than God . . . that he can do without God.  He sees his troops slithering away before the battle and, thinking that he will keep them from leaving, he steps in to intervene – countering God’s plan.

Today we reflect on Saul’s story and examine our motivations to see if the fire of self-knowledge threatens to consume us. Tomorrow, the fire of battle. Do our conflicts help us to know ourselves better? Or do they send us further into deception and denial? 

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