2 Samuel 9

David finds and honours mephisbosheth, who is Jonathan’s son, grandson of Saul. He returns to him much of Saul’s property and treats him as a son, having him dine at his table from then on. 

We last saw mephisbosheth in the narrative when he was fleeing the royal palace as a child, his nurse dropped him and he became lame in both feet.

This kindness is unusual and unnecessary behaviour for a king, and it shows again his respect for the lord’s anointed, Saul, his love of jonathan, and of course it springs from the sincere love of God that both men had. 

It’s a powerful thing when Christians act, do. When we behave with generosity contrary to the normal self serving dictates of a position, against our own best interests, it makes our love of God real.

Pray that god gives me way to behave counter intuitively.

1 Samuel 31

The tragic end of Saul and his family. Jonathan too! That hurts.

It’s been gonna happen since Samuel predicted it in chapter 15. Saul has been raging, fighting fate, and terrified of it. 

They lose to the philistines attack. His sons killed in the battle, Saul takes his life. Several Judean towns flee and the philistines take the territory. 

So ends a book that has been an amazing political and human narrative.

What does this say about God? It’s classical, you can’t run from God. Can’t fight him. 

The words of one of Bob Dylan’s christian songs spring to mind “surrender your crown on this blood stained ground, take off your mask”

1 Samuel 12

Samuel’s coronation address. It’s so real, he is very old and makes no bones about having been opposed to having a king. His coronation message: god is king.

He reminds everyone of his record for honesty.

He recites the history of Israel, jumping from Moses to Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah and the most recent (last chapter) delivery from the ammonites. This underscores his theme that the peoples faithfullness to God is their salvation, not the status of their leaders.

Then he performs a miracle, calling down thunder and rain at will. It is the harvest season and the weather is clear which makes it a very freakish weather event. He explicitly makes it a demonstration of their sin in wanting a king other than God.

It works and the people ask for his intervention to stop God killing them on the spot.

He says that is not going to happen today, but pleads with them to serve God with all their hearts. Having a king will make no difference to the judgement that will come if they are not faithful. Both they and their king will be swept away.

That’s some coronation speech. 

The kingship winds up having more lows than highs, too. It follows the same depressing trajectory as judges but on a grander scale.

We are all caught in a circle of sin and rebellion. This pattern where we promise to be faithful to God but fail over and over.  God has much more right than us to be cynical of it.

But one response to our own cynicism is to delegate out our responsibility. To trust an earthly king in the form of an ideology, a charismatic leader, a movement. Like Israel’s king, we can have them but they can’t supplant God. They won’t save us. We must be faithful in God as our king.

Ezra 10

A disturbing and vivid chapter. The people respond to Ezra’s mourning over sin, culminating in a dramatic meeting in the rain where they promise to put away their foreign wives and the children by them. The rain seems to worry them more than the fate of the women and children involved. They appoint leaders by tribe to investigate and enforce the rules.

Israelites don’t have to leave their wives, but it’s a line in the sand: if not they forfeit property in Jerusalem and are expelled. It a “choose you this day who you will serve” moment that affects a lot of other people.

Then follows a sad list of all those who had inter married.

I understand Jerusalem is a symbolic city and they are preserving a culture too, but you worry at the fate of the women and children left with no husband or father. There is no mention of any provision for them.

I suppose sin is serious and it’s real. In the age of grace we intertwine sinful lives with being seen pure by God and it’s hard to remember that the evil matters.

I don’t think the harshness was lost on them. The people came up with the plan, Ezra did not impose it. What he did was pray, just that, with great pain and sadness.

They knew the rule of Moses to stay separate from the polytheistic culture of the promised land, or Jehovah would soon be a meaningless trinket in a long list of household gods. They also knew the condemnation malachai had for divorce, who called it treachery that made god weep and refuse offerings. In the ancient world divorce could be a social and economic catastrophe for women, who had few other options.

That’s why everyone was so upset. They had got into a situation where whatever they did was immoral and had to choose one path or the other. ┬áIt applied to about 100 out of 30000 or so. It reminds me of corporate restructures, to keep the whole viable they are harsh to a few.

I recall from earlier, in Genesis for instance, god treated the slaves and mistresses of Moses’dumb attempts to fulfill the covenant by fornication with great grace, we followed their story and saw that they and their children prospered and were all part of the plan. We’re not told what happened here, and often in life we don’t know how faithfulness to God plan works out, but that is the god I believe in. He is love.

May I have faith to trust and obey God. He knows how many hairs are on every head, and how many grains of sand there are. I can’t plan the big picture better than he can, but I can follow the path he has set.