Stories of the OT: David

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

Opening Hymn

Readings

1 Samuel 16: 1-13 (NLT)

16 Now the Lord said to Samuel, “You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as king of Israel, so fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king.”

But Samuel asked, “How can I do that? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”

“Take a heifer with you,” the Lord replied, “and say that you have come to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you which of his sons to anoint for me.”

So Samuel did as the Lord instructed. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town came trembling to meet him. “What’s wrong?” they asked. “Do you come in peace?”

“Yes,” Samuel replied. “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then Samuel performed the purification rite for Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice, too.

When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!”

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Then Jesse told his son Abinadab to step forward and walk in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “This is not the one the Lord has chosen.” Next Jesse summoned Shimea,[a] but Samuel said, “Neither is this the one the Lord has chosen.” 10 In the same way all seven of Jesse’s sons were presented to Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11 Then Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse replied. “But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.”

“Send for him at once,” Samuel said. “We will not sit down to eat until he arrives.”

12 So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes.

And the Lord said, “This is the one; anoint him.”

13 So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on. Then Samuel returned to Ramah.

Mark 10: 46-52 (NLT)

46 Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. 47 When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 “Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.” So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” 50 Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus. 51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. “My Rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”

52 And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road

Homily

I wonder what you think of when I mention the Old Testament character, David?  Maybe you think of the youngest of 8 sons of Jesse, too insignificant to be invited to a feast and left to look after the sheep, yet the one anointed by the prophet Samuel to be a king.  Maybe you think of Goliath and this plucky shepherd boy’s victory over the giant warrior.  Maybe you think of the psalms David wrote – the twenty third psalm, the Lord is my shepherd must surely have been inspired by his early life experience.  You might think of his uneasy relationship with Saul or his remarkable friendship with Saul’s son and heir, Jonathan.  You might think of the successful King who presided over the hey-day of the Israelite nation. You may remember the promise that one of David’s line would be King forever – a promise fulfilled in the Son of David, the eternal King, Jesus.

It is unlikely that you think of David killing 200 philistine men to present their foreskins as a bride price for Saul’s daughter, Michal.  It is unlikely that you remember David seducing Bathsheba, then when she finds she is pregnant, arranging for her husband to die in battle to cover up his misdeed.  It is unusual to think of David’s troubled relationships within his family, and there was enough intrigue and infighting there to furnish the plots of several soap operas.  Like Abraham last week, David was a very flawed character.  Even bearing in mind that David lived in very different times and a very different culture, some of his actions are as deeply distasteful as others are incredibly inspiring. 

So, with all that to contend with, what might we learn from David?  Why did God choose such a mixed person to be his chosen leader?  And even more so, what does it mean for Jesus to be the Son of David?

Those are big questions to try and tackle in a short sermon, but I think that our reading today gives us a clue.  When Samuel is impressed by the kingly attributes of David’s eldest brother, God tells him “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  Earlier on, when Saul had disobeyed Samuel’s instructions, he prophesies that Saul would lose his kingship and that the Lord had chosen another – a man after his own heart.  Many hundreds of years later, when Paul is preaching in Acts, he recalls that David was chosen because he was “a man after God’s own heart”.

Years ago, as part of my training for ministry, I did some research on Christian women who were combining their call to motherhood with a call to work outside the home.  As they discussed the challenges, the judgements and the double-binds they encountered, I asked them how their faith in God supported them.  One of my participants burst out: “God knows my heart!”  In the midst of the criticism and challenges, in the midst of the things she got right and the things she got wrong, she knew that God knew she was doing her best.  God knew that she was trying in the muddle of human living to live the most loving God-honouring life she could.

I think that David for all his flaws, and he had many, genuinely tried to live his best life for God, giving it all that he had.  A word that is repeated again and again in the historical books of the Old Testament is wholehearted – people either did or didn’t serve God with their whole heart.  David was human and out of that human frailty he made some spectacular mistakes and dreadful choices that had violent and tragic consequences not just for him, but for others caught up in his story.  But he was wholehearted – he was God’s man through and through.

The Son of David became a Messianic title – it was one of the ways that those generations that followed David’s reign tried to describe a hope.  This hope was that one day another leader, a person after God’s own heart and a great King would rise.  This person would fulfil God’s promises to David: that one of his family would reign forever.

Jesus was that hope.  Like David he was wholehearted.  Like David, he was God’s man through and through.  He was God.  But unlike David, he didn’t make the poor choices that caused suffering to others.  Rather, every act of Jesus was designed to put his kingly power at the service of those who needed it most.  He brought healing and reconciliation through his life and then definitively through his death and resurrection.  In Jesus, we see the heart of God.

So, based on these reflections, I suppose one of the questions we might want to take into this week is “How is my heart?”  Am I wholehearted about living my best and most loving life for God?  And the second comes out of a recognition that even wholehearted people can get things wrong – like David we can misuse our gifts and power.  So our second question is “How am I using my gifts and power to serve those who need it most?”  And as we ponder these questions, may we be guided and encouraged by the Spirit of Jesus, who lives in our hearts and helps us – every day – to grow more like our Lord.

Prayers

Lord Jesus,
we pray in your name and in the name of peace
for the worn torn countries of the world,
for countries where violence is rife, 
for communities where tensions run high.
Lord, hear our prayer

We pray in your name and in the name of sorrow 
for the people of Reading,
as we remember James Furlong, Joe Ritchie-Bennett and David Wails,
for those who tried to save them,
for those who grieve for them.
Lord hear our prayer

We pray in your name and in the name of justice
for the marginalised people of the world,
for those who are discriminated against,  
for those who are trafficked.
Lord hear our prayer 

We pray in your name and in the name of compassion  
for the animals of the world, 
for those that are hunted,
those that are exploited,
those that are endangered.
Lord hear our prayer

We pray in your name and in the name of gratitude  
for those who stand up for the oppressed,
for those who kneel down for the victimised,
for those who speak out for the silenced.
Lord hear our prayer

We pray in your name and in the name of love  
for children and young people.
for those who are vulnerable,  
for those with special needs, 
for those who are carers for their parents and siblings.
Lord hear our prayer

We pray in your name and in the name of hope  
for economic challenges to be overcome,
for opportunities to be embraced,
for changes to be long lasting.
Lord hear our prayer

Lord Jesus, we pray in your name and in the name of faith  
for your church throughout the world,
for those entrusted with leadership,
for congregations reaching out to their communities,  
for one another to live as we pray.
Lord hear our prayer

Lord Jesus, we pray in your name and in the name of thankfulness
for businesses and venues preparing to open again,
for families preparing to meet up again, 
for friends preparing to socialise again;
and we pray for all in government as they continue to monitor and measure 
the levels of infections around the UK.
Lord hear our prayer,
for you are our strength and our inspiration
and in you we trust.
Amen.

(Prayers taken from Roots on the Web https://www.rootsontheweb.com/ )

Closing Hymn

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