For You have girded me with strength for battle;
You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.
You have also made my enemies turn their backs to me,
And I destroyed those who hated me.
They looked, but there was none to save;
Even to the Lord, but He did not answer them.
Then I pulverized them as the dust of the earth;
I crushed and stamped them as the mire of the streets.
(2 Samuel 22:40-43 NASB)
Theology, at its core, is a ‘word about God’, just as the word means: ‘theo = god’ and ‘logy = word’. Since followers of Jesus are to get their word about God from the Scripture He created, it may be helpful to view Scriptures that make us uncomfortable. This one, is, on the surface, a praise for God’s help in times of trouble. But as we delve into what was done, how God helped, we, 21st Century Christians, may be a bit uncomfortable with this word about God.
So far most people to whom I teach Scripture don’t ask why or where I get this stuff. So far any way. It has to be a matter of time. Either that, or they just assume I’m nuts. But most of my approach to Scripture and my teaching from it is a response to feeling cheated. When I was raised in church, I was given a view of God. It was a view of God as being one particular way, and fitting a particular mold. But as I read Scripture for myself, I discovered a very different God revealed on the pages. And I asked questions, but was told very little. When I finally got to college, I was challenged to ask questions. And I learned a path to pursue the answers, and a conviction that they are in there.
So when I bring such a passage above to this blog and those who read it, it’s partly out of protest against what I was taught as a child, but mostly because I don’t want to further that crime. If the view through the knothole isn’t the fun part of the game, isn’t the view you wanted to see of your favorite player, you need to know the game you watch, and who it is who plays. Jesus said that those who seek the Kingdom of God need to count the cost. That’s not our normal ‘evangelistic’ tactic with people, but it was His.
The Problem of God Enabling Destruction
So Who is this God enabling David to crush his enemies to dust and mire? Who doesn’t answer those being destroyed in their distress? Who gives David power and strength to destroy people? Who is this? Why would the Jesus Who will one day hang from a cross for the sins of the world, now empower David to destroy those we know God loves (for God so loved the world, right)? Remember I told you I also learned the conviction that the answers are in there? So here we go.
Step 1: Context
In a scene in ‘Ferris Buler’s Day Off’, Cameron Fry is staring a painting in a huge art museum, and the scene focuses in on the painting until the view is consumed by the mouth of a young girl crying. If you run that part of the scene backward, you would go from the blackness of the girls mouth out to the girl’s face, then the girl, the her holding her mom’s hand, and finally to the idyllic view of the girl and her mom walking in a beautiful park. Context. An idyllic park, beautiful day, a mom and her daughter walking, and yet the girl is unhappy. A picture of life in a way, not everyone is happy in happy circumstances.
That is what this passage requires, context. Keep in mind that the path to this passage goes through another passage where David is in distress and God rescues him. Then another where David says God does so because of David’s righteousness. My point here is that the context of God enabling David to destroy and not answering David’s enemies implies that these enemies are actually God’s enemies. What God is doing is enabling David to participate in God’s battle. God doesn’t need David’s help, but like a father apprenticing his son, in a way God is apprenticing David to work and participate with Him in defeating evil. A little OJT super hero training?
Step 2: Adjusting Our Thinking to His
This still leaves us with a view that God isn’t ‘nice’ just because we have Jesus dying for our sins. He didn’t have a personality change or ‘come-to-Jesus event’ or something. Jesus is the same One enabling David to fight the fight of God against God’s enemies. And sometimes the cries of the enemies will be to God. That is hard to hear. It’s hard to know that God does not answer everyone in their distress. It was nice for David to know that, given the choice, God answered him, but he didn’t always feel that way, because God didn’t always answer him as he wanted.
Yet, keep in mind another passage where Jesus says, ‘not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven’ (Matthew 7:21). If that isn’t scary enough, continue on as He says that those who ‘prophesy’ and who perform miracles will not make it. Instead it’s the ones who ‘gave food to the hungry’, the ones who ‘did it unto the least of these’; these enter into the Kingdom. Keep in mind this passage as you read the one above. Not everyone calling on Jesus as Lord are rescued, but the ones actually doing the will of God; somewhat like David.
Do you see what I’m saying? It is by grace from God that we are saved, and yes, the ones calling on the name of the Lord are saved. But keep in mind that declaring Jesus is Lord, your Lord, means you obey your Master. That’s not an American’s strong suit; obedience to a master. We chafe at such things, and yet nothing else saves. Living Jesus is Lord works. It’s not works salvation, it’s work of the saved. If Jesus is your Lord, that’s what that means. It means you will obey Him. If you won’t obey Him, you may ‘call Him Lord, Lord,’ but truly He isn’t anything of the sort. This is why Jesus calls people to count the cost of discipleship. This is why Jesus says that those who are dramatic but not sincere in their obedience do not make it into the Kingdom. It better terrify us, it terrifies me!
Step 3: Live it Out
And I’m not trying to convince you that you’re not saved, nor am I trying to call your salvation or eternal security into question. I’m simply pointing out a ‘blind spot’ in most American’s ‘walk with God’. He simply does not permit us to have country and culture first, and God second. It never has worked that way, as hard as we may try.
So count the cost. Are you in or are you out? If you’re in, get ready, because there’s a lot of hungry people, ones in prison, and those in need of a drink. James says that true religion and undefiled is to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world. Is that what the church in America looks like? Or are the ‘stains’ of this culture and country prevalent and obvious in our church? Do we focus on those with nothing, or those with everything? Count the cost. Is it a price you are willing to pay? Is the Kingdom of Heaven your treasure in a field for which you will sell everything else?
An uncomfortable view through the knothole this morning? So, what is your view?