A Repeated Biblical Theme

We say that the God having inspired Scripture is all about redemption, but it still surprises us when we see it.  “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone.” (Psalm 118:22 ESV).  We know it, we’ve read it, but it still surprises us when we stumble over it in Scripture.

Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a valiant warrior, but he was the son of a harlot. And Gilead was the father of Jephthah.  Gilead’s wife bore him sons; and when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.”  So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob; and worthless fellows gathered themselves about Jephthah, and they went out with him.  It came about after a while that the sons of Ammon fought against Israel.  When the sons of Ammon fought against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob; (Judges 11:1-5 NASB)

Does anyone else see David’s story here?  Not exactly, but the “exiled warrior” motif seems similar.  But what else should be similar is the rejection and redemption cycle.  The brothers of Jephthah exile him, as David was exiled by Saul.  Both are wronged by those who should have loved and supported them.  But it’s the kind of people who come around them, those disheartened and considered worthless.  Again with the motif of marginalized warriors.

But both show character, Jephthah, and, later, David both are examples of faith.  Both suffer tragedy.  Yet both stand, and both are faithful through the tragedy.  And, please keep that in mind, that both are faithful, even in tragedy.  We make much of David’s failure with Bathsheba, but he also suffers rejection and exile before, and still remains faithful.  Suffering doesn’t always come as a punishment.  Sometimes suffering just comes, and it becomes a test of our faithfulness.

In both instances, Jephthah and David, they remained faithful in exile.  Yahweh sees, and approves of them, eventually using them to lead His people.  The redemption part isn’t to glory and fame, as much as redemption to the purposes of Yahweh.  He uses them in His plans, these who the people rejected.  He changes the course of His people using the ones in whom they saw no value.

Here’s my takeaway:  1) If you’ve been rejected by people, take heart.  And 2) if you’ve rejected people, take care you see them as their Creator sees them.  There are those Yahweh rejected, but there are far more who were rejected by people only to be redeemed by Yahweh.  We need to be careful we see people and their value as Yahweh sees them.  This takes a sense of our Master found only in learning His character from Scripture and time with Him in prayer.  There’s no short cut.

Well, that’s my simple view this morning.  I could probably work up some more complex application, but, why cloud what seems so clear?

What do you see through your knothole of our Master?


Divine Conundrum

Then He said to them, “How is it that they say the Christ is David’s son?  For David himself says in the book of Psalms, ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET.”‘ Therefore David calls Him ‘Lord,’ and how is He his son?” (Luke 20:41-44 NASB)

Growing up, I looked at this question as the end-all, be-all of theological conundrums.  At this point, I’m wondering what the problem was.  The term “son” isn’t as simple as it is to us.  In our culture the word “son” refers to a male child of a particular person.  By extension we’ll allow the person to be one of a group (Sons of the Revolution).  But in Hebrew and many Semitic languages, the term has a categorical meaning as well.

A man seventy-five years old is said to be a “son of seventy and five years” in Hebrew.  So, when Jesus claims to be the Son of God, it’s not just a reference to His Father, but also a categorical reference to His divinity.  So here’s the problem: is “son of David” a progeny or categorical reference, or both?

The question as Jesus poses it refers to Psalm 110 where David refers to the coming “Messiah” as “Lord”, subordinating himself under the One referred to as his son.  My question is, is Jesus saying Psalm 110 means the Messiah is not a Davidic King?  It seems a lot of work was done to substantiate this quality of Jesus in Matthew and Luke, what with a Bethlehem origin-story, genealogy back to David, and the statement of Joseph’s family.  Is Jesus now saying in effect, “who cares?”  I don’t think so.

I think what Jesus is asking is for a different definition of the Messiah paradigm.  From the line of David shouldn’t include a definition of the kingship.  In other words, being a descendant doesn’t require all the other elements of the categorical reference.  So Jesus is free to be a King like David; yet with the additional elements missing from David’s kingship.  I think Jesus is expanding this categorical reference to include the other references to Prophet and Priest, not just “King”.  In this way, Jesus’ Kingship is greater than David’s.

And this is not to say that Jesus won’t be King or ruler.  He will be King, He will sit on the throne of David, but only in a sense.  He will be a king like David, yet He will also be very different.  Jesus says as much to Pilate when He tells Pilate that if His kingdom were here His people would be fighting here, and they’re not.  His Kingdom is not of this world.  His reign is not of this world, and His kingship does not belong in the category of earthly kings.  His kingship belongs in the category of David only in so far as David ruled the Chosen People as a man after God’s heart.  In this way, so does Jesus, but from the right hand of the Father.

So, the Psalm points to a type of king, one greater than David.  The kingdom will be greater than the Jews. The people will be more than one ethnic group.  The King will reign forever. And He will do so from a “Jerusalem”, but a new one.

I suppose what this means for me is that Jesus is like lots of things found in Scripture.  But none of them can fully describe Him.  He is a king like David.  He is a prophet like Moses.  He is a priest like Melchizedek.  I believe that, in Biblical Theology terms, this is “typology”.  I believe that Jesus merely limits how thoroughly we apply the type.  He is like those things, but He is not those things.  Jesus will always surpass our types, imagination, and dreams.  He’s really cool that way.

What’s your view through the fence this morning?

The City of David?

Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, (Luke 2:4 NASB)

So David lived in the stronghold and called it the city of David. And David built all around from the Millo and inward. (2 Samuel 5:9 NASB)

One quirky thing I ran across here was the reference to the City of David.  I stumbled on it because I have just finished studying 2 Samuel, and there the ‘City of David’ is Jerusalem.  I checked, and the reference is in the Greek text of the Hebrew Scriptures which Luke would have used as well.  I have a few commentaries for Luke, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of ink used on this issue.  But it’s definitely odd to me, and I believe it would have been somewhat odd for Luke’s audience as well.

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The Messenger

So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time, and seventy thousand men of the people from Dan to Beersheba died.  When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented from the calamity and said to the angel who destroyed the people, “It is enough! Now relax your hand!” And the angel of the Lord was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.  Then David spoke to the Lord when he saw the angel who was striking down the people, and said, “Behold, it is I who have sinned, and it is I who have done wrong; but these sheep, what have they done? Please let Your hand be against me and against my father’s house.” (2 Samuel 24:15-17 NASB)

The sheer number of theological problems in this chapter boggle the mind.  The version in 1 Chronicles only smooths out a few of them.  This account in Chronicles is actually more visually problematic.  What I want to focus on in this view through the knothole is the character of God.  Because, I find it comforting that God changes His mind.  But it’s a problem too.

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God Helps Kill Enemies?

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.

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Inspired Activity

 For You are my lamp, O Lord;
And the Lord illumines my darkness.
For by You I can run upon a troop;
By my God I can leap over a wall
(2 Samuel 22:29,30 NASB)

I saw Star Wars when it first came out, and it was overwhelming.  I left the theater feeling like I could have run all the way home (about 20 miles…and I was 11).  Up to that point, and granted my experience was severely limited, I had never had a movie do that to me.  I felt so inspired, I wanted to do what the characters had done, overcome the evil, defeat the unbeatable odds, and live to tell the tale.

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The Violence of God and His People

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)

Would it bother you if I told you that God sometimes incites His people to violent acts?  Probably.  In our culture we would probably shudder or start calling for the guys in white coats, nets, and extra-long-sleeve jackets with buckles in the back.  It sounds like the ravings of a lunatic blaming God for their lunacy, ‘hearing voices’, and foaming at the mouth.  Not something we like to think about.  To be fair, most of the times (or all the times) this sort of thing has been reported in the news, that was pretty close to what it was, lunacy; perhaps even demonic activity.

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How Does God Respond To You and Me?

With the kind You show Yourself kind,
With the blameless You show Yourself blameless;
With the pure You show Yourself pure,
And with the perverted You show Yourself astute.
And You save an afflicted people;
But Your eyes are on the haughty whom You abase
(2 Samuel 22:26-28 NASB)

Active listening, or ‘mirroring’ are communication techniques recommended for clearer conversation, discussions, and even negotiation.  What about living this way?  What if you live in such a way as to ‘mirror’ those around you?  Well, according to God’s instructions to the people of Israel as they entered the Promised Land, that is a recipe for disaster.  But can a ‘modified’ form of life-mirroring be learned from how God responds to us?

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What’s The Difference?

You have also given me the shield of Your salvation,
And Your right hand upholds me;
And Your gentleness makes me great (Psalm 18:35 NASB)

You have also given me the shield of Your salvation,
And Your help makes me great. (2 Samuel 22:36 NASB)

On my trek through 2 Samuel, I ran across chapter 22, which I was going to skip since it was also Psalm 18.  But then it occurred to me that the minor differences might be illuminating.  So, I wanted to pick out a few and share some insights.  Keep in mind, we don’t really know which is truly the older edition, but the prevailing suspicion is that the book of Psalms preserves the final edition more fit for public worship.  Regardless of which is more ‘fitting’, I do believe that the Psalm is the final, and 2 Samuel 22 is the ‘draft’.  That being said, permit me to delve into one of the differences, verse 36 in 2 Samuel 22, and verse 35 in Psalm 18 (in the English, not in Hebrew numbering).

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