Reading through the stories about David is like flipping through a photo album and watching a family member age over time. Here, we meet a mature David, a man of accomplishment but not yet the callous king who wreaks so much havoc to satisfy his own whims. This is no longer the impulsive boy who kills Goliath, but not yet the corrupt and selfish king. This is the David who has been steadfast in his loyalty to Saul and Jonathan, and who has earned the respect of his fellow soldiers.
Read Dr. Elna Solvang’s Working Preacher commentary here.
The scripture text can be found here.
Recognizing David’s military accomplishments, the tribes of Israel come to David and formalize the relationship with him as their king. Long before this, Samuel anoints David as the king. This time, the tribes do it, after they make a covenant together. The lectionary leaves out David’s conquest of Jerusalem, and a battle with the Philistines. Next, David and the men of Israel go to get the ark, symbolic of the presence of God. As David begins his reign as king, the ark will also have a new home, in Jerusalem. The lectionary also leaves out the dangerous journey of the ark, and the argument between David and God.
Finally, Samuel’s long ago anointing of David the shepherd boy as king has come to fruition. (1 Samuel 16:13) After that time, “the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.” Still, having David as king is accomplished with a lot of battle, bloodshed and sorrow.
The text has some jarring notes, mostly left out by the selection of verses. Of course, we hear the story from Israel’s point of view, and so the surrounding nations already in the land are just obstacles to be conquered. The mention of the blind and lame reflects a time with a different understanding of people who have disabilities. The word “lame” is disappearing from our common language, and is no longer acceptable even to describe a lackluster event. All of this triumph and happiness in the story skips over the story of the unfortunate Uzzah, who reaches out, probably unthinkingly, to straighten out the ark as it travels. God strikes him dead for touching it.
These stories, along with Michal’s anger at David, offer us other layers to the story of David’s triumph. The lectionary skips over them, but they give us more to chew on, as the backstory to success and acclaim.
- God’s timing is always interesting to ponder. Why does God anoint David king and then wait so long until David is acclaimed king? David has a long apprenticeship before he becomes the king. He first plays the lyre for King Saul when Saul is tormented, and serves as Saul’s armor-bearer (16:21.) Along the way, he sees the stresses of being king, and observes the battles against Israel’s enemies. The sermon might look at what God is doing in the gaps in our lives. What is God preparing, or seasoning, in us, or our church community, in such a gap? Is God preparing something in you or in your faith community, something that’s coming to life slowly?
- David’s kingship comes to him in two parts, first as God’s choice and by the will of the people. My faith tradition, the Presbyterian Church (USA) understands ordained office, including both ministers and church officers, in the same way. God’s call is confirmed by the voice of the people. How does that dual process work in your tradition? Do the two ever diverge? Is the voice of the people a check on our self-delusions and misunderstandings?
- David’s kingship involves a lot of sorrow for other people who are in his path. What price do we pay for leadership, either in our own griefs along the way, or in the people who don’t become part of the triumphant story?
- The people make a covenant with David to have him as their king. What do you suppose he promised to do, on his end? What do you suppose happens to their faith when he fails to be the kind of king they imagine? Do you think they have regrets, in future days?
- What are your thoughts? Join the conversation in the comments below. We’re eager to hear where you’re going this week.
Rev. Mary Austin is the Senior Pastor of Gaithersburg Presbyterian Church, where 33 different nations are represented in the church membership. She is the author of Meeting God at the Mall. The image above is King David with Harp, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. Photo by Dennis Jarvis.
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