Tuesday, September 16, 2008

David and Goliath

1 Samuel 17

Tensions between the Isaraelites and the Philistines continue. Now the Philistines have presented a giant of a soldier, Goliath, to threaten the Israelites. He challenges someone to fight with him one-on-one. For forty days, the Israelites do not respond -- they are very afraid of the giant.

David, a youth, is sent by his father Jesse to take food to his brothers, who are in Saul's service. Arriving at the battleground, he sees the giant and hears the challenge, and, despite his brothers' protests, decides he will fight the giant. Saul tries to deck him out in armor, but he is so young that it is too heavy and awkward for him, so he takes it all off again and challenges Goliath just with his slingshot. Goliath laughs at him until a stone shot by David from his slingshot brings Goliath down. David finishes him off with Goliath's own sword, and cuts off his head.

Everyone is amazed and impressed.

So, I had heard the story of David and Goliath, and knew that it was biblical, but it is interesting now to see it in context of the ongoing story.

Despite the violence in this story, the image of someone young and unlikely taking down a giant is a remarkable story, reminding us that sheer physical power alone is not always enough to force events to play out as the powerful would wish.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Divine Power of Music

1 Samuel 16

Interestingly enough, just after we find David selected as the next king (but before he actually becomes so) David enters the ongoing story line as a musician.

The spirit of the Lord comes "mightily" upon David (16:13), departs from Saul (16:14), and Saul is now tormented by an "evil spirit from the Lord (also 16:14). Saul's servants want to find him relief from these spells, and so they look for a musician, a lyre player. It turns out that David plays the lyre! He also is "a man of valor, a warrior, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence" (16:18). Saul "loved him greatly" (16:21), and "whenever the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand, and Saul would be relieved and feel better, and the evil spirit would depart from him" (16:23).

It's nice to see this acknowledgment of the magic healing powers of music!

But, unfortunately, it turns out that the good relationship between Saul and David does not last long...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

First King Rejected

1 Samuel 9-16

I find the life and reign of Saul, the first king, to be sad and puzzling. He keeps fighting these battles splendidly and winning, but the Lord becomes regretful for making him king, because he is not following His commands properly.

Well, Saul is fighting and winning the appropriate battles, but when Samuel doesn't show up in time to perform a certain crucial sacrifice, Saul does it himself. Saul also seems reluctant to totally destroy the cities he conquers, taking an enemy king captive instead of killing him, and thinking it better to save the best of the enemy's livestock to use for sacrifice instead of just slaughtering all the animals. (His army still did destroy all of the people, except for said king.)

So, the Lord rejected Saul as king. "The spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him" (16:14).

As I read these chapters, I had the sense that Saul was trying to do his best. He didn't seem to be trying to be willfully disobedient. If anything, he just seemed a bit clueless about what was really sacrosanct, and which matters he could take into his own hands when other things didn't work out quite as he expected. After all, he was not raised with priestly training, as Samuel was.

But I'll keep reading and see what happens next. Maybe this will become clearer as we watch the next king come on the scene: David.