4/3/2016 10:35:07 AM
A Reflection on 1 Samuel and the Rise of David
Our Year with the Bible reading (reflected in our first reading in worship today) is bringing us into the kings of Ancient Israel. After the confederation of tribes collapsed at the end of Judges, Saul is eventually crowned as the first king of Israel. However, his rule does not last long. Originally chosen by God, he's eventually rejected. His descent is not about being evil. Instead, he is a tragically marred character who, near the end of his rule, obsesses with the next king in line: David.
Our reading from 1 Samuel begins with God speaking to Samuel, telling him to go and find the next king of Israel. God doesn't tell Samuel who that king will be. Instead Samuel, like the reader of the text, has to discover who God has chosen. Samuel visits a household filled with 7 sons. Each son, eldest first and descending through birth order, parades before Samuel. When Samuel sees each son, he is sure that God has appointed this one as the next king of Israel. But each time Samuel sees a son, God doesn't speak. Samuel hears nothing. After the parade, Samuel speaks up. He asks if there's another son. The youngest son is shepherding the flock. He is young, with no hope for an inheritance. Instead, while the other sons are entertaining Samuel, David is taking care of others. This imagery of a king as a shepherd is an important one. A king was, by default, a shepherd of the people. Even Moses, when he ran into the wilderness after he struck an Egyptian, became a shepherd. When Samuel arrives to discover the next king of Israel, he forgets to look where a king is supposed to be.
The story of David isn't only the story of the birth of a king. The story of David shows the complexity of the human life. Even as a beloved servant of God, David is not perfect. Once his hold on the monarchy is secure, he will fall victim to a lust for power. He will forget who he is and his relationship with the one who chose him to be king. The life of David becomes the model for how each of the future kings of Israel will live their lives. Power, control, and sin will cause each of them to forget God. And when God is forgotten, sin starts to win.