King David as a Romantic Figure – Disempowering the Word of God

Hemingway's_writing_desk_in_Key_WestThe Old Testament is a tough book to study. There are details missing, we don’t always understand the culture and it’s hard to get the hang of what its all about. So sometimes it’s easier to turn to movies or books which explain the story in a way we relate to. One option is to read novels, and I have read a few on David which have concerned me. As both a fiction writer and a student of David’s life, I would like to share how novels can negatively influence our understanding of the Word of God.

We’re not specifically told in the Bible that novelising the Word of God is wrong, but it creates practical problems by the power of suggestion. When we read fiction, as we become engrossed in the story which is presented to us, it gets harder to identify what facts are real, and which are embellished. Studies have now shown that memories are altered each time we recall them and that adds to the problem. If we remember what we’ve learned about King David as we read a novel about him, those memories of what the Scriptures actually say can easily be changed by the text we’re been exposed to, and we may not realise it.

When an author works on a historical novel, they have to deal with masses of details being missing and unobtainable. To counter that problem, they devise character traits, motivations, scenes and most of the aspects needed to turn what, in David’s case, is a summary of selected facts, into a story which flows. This is where the main danger comes in. When you assign emotions, thoughts and motivations to someone, you can unintentionally, completely misrepresent them. If, like David, their story comes from the Old Testament, you are also grappling with a radically different moral and cultural mindset, which is extremely hard for a Westerner to understand, (even with extensive research.) This hampers the work, and can easily result in an incorrect analysis of why and how David acted, which can then affect the benefit his life gives us through the Bible, as we’re less willing to listen to his words.

I have seen book and movie authors try and make David a combined romantic figure and power crazed villain as they simply don’t understand his culture. We expect people in the Old Testament to think like us, hold exactly the same values and live much the same way. Nothing could be further from the truth.

One series of books I read quoted the Psalms and make King David a God-fearing good guy, then added fictional circumstances and motivations to known facts, to create scenarios to move her storyline and it’s themes along. While the work is sold as fiction and should only be taken as such, the problem is that her own thoughts and biases against polygamy, plus her misunderstanding of the laws handed down through Moses, dominated her storyline and in the end, David came out looking evil in a manner which contradicts Scripture. (Please see my article on polygamy.)

“For David had done what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and had obeyed the Lord’s commands throughout his life, except in the affair concerning Uriah the Hittite.” 1 Kings 15:5 David wasn’t an angel and if he had been, few could relate to him. However, to villainise someone because issues such as polygamy, the role of an ancient Israeli King and the status of women aren’t well understood by our Western culture, isn’t to do the Word of God justice. David’s actions appeared as sin or made no sense. It extended to more than David. His wives were all treated as powerless victims, as life in David’s time was approached from a modern viewpoint, which has no relevance on a culture which existed nearly three thousand years ago. There were masses of negative comments online which reflected my own feelings about this author, and I approached the Publisher, defending God’s Word. Sadly, they did not want to listen.

1280px-Buchblätter_001For me, reading this series illustrated the pitfalls of embellishing a partial storyline, and thankfully, has made me very cautious about what I read, and especially, what I write, regardless of whether it’s fiction or not. Incidents such as David’s sin with Bathsheba are there to teach us the consequences of our actions. They are not meant to be romanticised and to do so, is to disrespect the intention the Word of God has in telling us about Bathsheba.

The book of Revelation gives a stern warning that anyone who adds to that book will be punished. Perhaps that should make us pause and consider how we handle all of God’s Word? “And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book.” Revelation 22:19 In Deuteronomy 4:2, Moses tells Isra’el: “Do not add to or subtract from these commands I am giving you. Just obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you.”

The Word is the inspired truth, written by many authors, but compiled as God the Father has determined it should be. There are historical writings and Psalms that were never included in our Scriptures. Why not? They are not writings that the Lord wishes to include. We need to be careful about what we do. Paul tells us that teachers of the Word are subject to more severe judgement as they can lead so many astray. [Ref. James 3:1] If you novelise, whether it is intentional or not, you are teaching, as you are planting ideas in people’s heads. Caution has to be taken.

If you are going to read a novel based on the Bible or watch a movie, please approach it with your Bible open beside you, and take the time to ask the Lord if He wants you to read it (and wait for an answer.) I love novels, I love movies which make the Word of God come alive, but I don’t want to approach Bible study with an attitude which may shut out what the Lord wants to teach me.

29200701_mr3x3xrrr

Additional Helpful Reading


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you. The images in this post are CC4.0 from Wikimedia Commons.

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Judging Bathsheba: Reading the Bible Righteously

cibo00-Water-DoveI have never heard a good word spoken about BathSheba, except by some Rabbis, who declare David and BathSheba’s association as the greatest love story in the Bible. That may be because King Solomon came from their union.

When pressed to answer what I think about her, the only response I have is, “I don’t know the lady. I have no idea what she was like, so I really don’t think it’s my place to judge her. She is someone’s wife and someone’s mother: so she was loved.” I honestly cannot say more than that. I try and relate to her as a fellow human, rather than a good or bad person.

David and BathSheba is the story of what happens when things get way out of hand… when you can no longer control the circumstances, then fall into shame and block out the need to repent. Both David and BathSheba could have lost their lives over their adultery. It’s a serious matter, but while I can learn a great deal from their mistakes, there is still no need for me to slide into any judgement of what they did. That’s only the Lord’s job.

There is a tendency to condemn and vilify those whose stories grace the pages of our Bibles. We have blurred the line between discerning a lesson and personal criticism, based on our own opinions. Jacob is another example of someone who is pulled to pieces. He is a controversial figure and we tend to remember the bad. We remember that Samson was strong… but weak when it came to women. Rahab is a heroine, despite that she was a prostitute, because she helped God’s chosen people. We look at small snapshots of long, complex lives, then we make a decision on whether that person was predominantly good or bad. As most of us fall prey to negativity biases, often the decision is damning.

Yet the Bible clearly labels Jacob and Samson as righteous and servants of the Lord. So why are we sticking the knife into their backs?

Another sobering question I was confronted by, when I was writing my Christian novels, was if I speak badly of these people or misrepresent them, when I get to heaven and actually meet them face to face, then what am I going to say? How am I going to feel when they stand there clean and forgiven, and I’ve previously assaulted them?

That issue made me think long and hard. If I behave in an insensitive and inhumane way towards BathSheba, what will I say to my beloved David when I see him, and hear how much he did love his wife; or that he wishes people had been willing to consider that perhaps the situation was much more complex and from this a brief account, we haven’t understood it?

What if I went up to him and said, “Absalom was such a rat! I don’t know how you put up with that kid, he must have driven you nuts!” Then I could be confronted with a father’s sadness over a lost son.

That would hurt. I never want to be in that situation.

45594452_sMaybe we all need to reconsider the way we teach the Scriptures and talk about ‘dead’ people? As they are names on pages, we feel no connection to, or responsibility towards them. That is the exact same psychological phenomenon that drives bullying and trolls on the internet. We can’t see the faces of the real people, so what we do just doesn’t matter. Yet it does. The Bible says, don’t judge. It doesn’t make any distinction on whether or not that responsibility stops with someone’s death. Orthodox Jews call people who have died, “… of blessed memory.” The person, regardless of whether they are family or not, are treated with respect. That is excellent role modelling.
People who died in right relationship with the Lord are not with us, but it doesn’t mean they have been deleted from existence. It doesn’t mean we will never squirm when we realise how badly we treated them. It doesn’t mean the Lord won’t rebuke us for our unrighteousness, for wielding swords of justice which are only, rightfully His.

So I have striven to err on the side of mercy and fairness when studying and writing about David, and that is, at times, quite a challenge. I have no respect for Saul, Joab or Absalom, but I do not want to stand before the Lord and have to explain why I acted with such harshness when the Father has been so merciful and tender with me. So I try and state the facts about them without including my personal opinion, name calling, or other derogatory low blows.

I have found, that another benefit has sprung up from me being more aware of how I treat David and his family. Amending my attitude has led to a greater awareness of how I judge and speak about the people in my immediate, real life, vicinity. That involves my family, my problematic neighbours and the people I meet in every day life, some of who annoy me.

Learning not to judge is a life skill that is necessary. Scripture tells us directly not to do it. We know we should act with the fruit of the Spirit, we know the standards. Even if we see others pulling apart people, we must resist the impulse to do the same. Judging others in teaching been done through many generations, and it will take some serious work to change our habits. However, for the sake of our character, it’s worth doing.

starofdavidtiny

Footnotes:
a) Scriptures on Judging: Luke 6:37, Matthew 7:2, Hebrews 10:30
b) Did David Rape BathSheba?
No, he didn’t. Why? Well, the Bible calls rape, rape and that is not what we see here. It is more likely that as he was a king, she was flattered or awed by him and he may have offered her an incentive such as wealth, land, a promotion for her husband: anything that would enable him to fulfil his desire. Who wouldn’t want to be more popular with the King and attain a higher position in life? Many people would take an opportunity like that and she may have seen it as an honour. [Ref. 2 Samuel 11-12]

Why do I think that?
1. As I said above, the Bible calls rape, rape. It pulls no punches about where David went wrong, so why would it here?
2. When David and BathSheba’s first child dies, David is able to comfort her. There is no indication of a fractured relationship, such as the one he had with Michal. A raped woman would be traumatised. David and BathSheba went on to have four other sons together and she became Queen, which we know as the succession of all her sons is listed.
3. David is such an overtly honest person, he would have confessed it in the Psalms.
4. David was so guilt-ridden over what he had done, had he raped her, it is possible he would have arranged for her to live, well cared for and safe somewhere.
5. It did not appear to be within David’s nature to be so violent outside of war. One example is the number of times the head of his army, Joab, wanted to assassinate a direct threat to his life and kingship. Each time, David said no, even though his refusal flew in the face of common sense. Violence was not his first choice. He looked to the Lord for deliverance. [Ref. 2 Samuel 2 Samuel 15-18]


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

Judgement Versus Discernment: Reading the Bible Righteously

judging bathshebaIt is very rare that I ever hear a good word spoken about BathSheba, except by some Rabbis, who declare David and BathSheba’s association as the greatest love story in the Bible. That may be because King Solomon came from their union.

When pressed to answer what I think about her, the only response I have is, “I don’t know the lady. I have no idea what she was like, so I really don’t think it’s my place to judge her. She is someone’s wife and someone’s mother: so she was loved.” I honestly cannot say more than that. I try and relate to her as a fellow human, rather than a good or bad person.

David and BathSheba is the story of what happens when things get way out of hand… when you can no longer control the circumstances, then fall into shame and block out the need to repent. Both David and BathSheba could have lost their lives over their adultery. It’s a serious matter, but while I can learn a great deal from their mistakes, there is still no need for me to slide into any judgement of what they did. That’s only the Lord’s job. [See footnote about rape.]

There is a tendency to condemn and vilify those whose stories grace the pages of our Bibles. We have blurred the line between discerning a lesson and personal criticism, based on our own opinions. Jacob is another example of someone who is pulled to pieces. He is a controversial figure and we tend to remember the bad. We remember that Samson was strong… but weak when it came to women. Rahab is a heroine, despite that she was a prostitute, because she helped God’s chosen people. We look at small snapshots of long, complex lives, then we make a decision on whether that person was predominantly good or bad. As most of us fall prey to negativity biases, often the decision is damning.

Yet the Bible clearly labels Jacob and Samson as righteous and servants of the Lord. So why are we sticking the knife into their backs?

Another sobering question I was confronted by, when I was writing my Christian novels, was if I speak badly of these people or misrepresent them, when I get to heaven and actually meet them face to face, then what am I going to say? How am I going to feel when they stand there clean and forgiven, and I’ve previously assaulted them?

That issue made me think long and hard. If I behave in an insensitive and inhumane way towards BathSheba, what will I say to my beloved David when I see him, and hear how much he did love his wife; or that he wishes people had been willing to consider that perhaps the situation was much more complex and from this a brief account, we haven’t understood it?

What if I went up to him and said, “Absalom was such a rat! I don’t know how you put up with that kid, he must have driven you nuts!” Then I could be confronted with a father’s sadness over a lost son.

That would hurt. I never want to be in that situation.

img_1682Maybe we all need to reconsider the way we teach the Scriptures and talk about ‘dead’ people? As they are names on pages, we feel no connection to, or responsibility towards them. That is the exact same psychological phenomenon that drives bullying and trolls on the internet. We can’t see the faces of the real people, so what we do just doesn’t matter. Yet it does. The Bible says, don’t judge. It doesn’t make any distinction on whether or not that responsibility stops with someone’s death. Orthodox Jews call people who have died, “… of blessed memory.” The person, regardless of whether they are family or not, are treated with respect. That is excellent role modelling.

People who died in right relationship with the Lord are not with us, but it doesn’t mean they have been deleted from existence. It doesn’t mean we will never squirm when we realise how badly we treated them. It doesn’t mean the Lord won’t rebuke us for our unrighteousness, for wielding swords of justice which are only, rightfully His.

So I have striven to err on the side of mercy and fairness when studying and writing about David, and that is, at times, quite a challenge. I have no respect for Saul, Joab or Absalom, but I do not want to stand before the Lord and have to explain why I acted with such harshness when the Father has been so merciful and tender with me. So I try and state the facts about them without including my personal opinion, name calling, or other derogatory low blows.

I have found, that another benefit has sprung up from me being more aware of how I treat David and his family. Amending my attitude has led to a greater awareness of how I judge and speak about the people in my immediate, real life, vicinity. That involves my family, my problematic neighbours and the people I meet in every day life, some of who annoy me.

Learning not to judge is a life skill that is necessary. Scripture tells us directly not to do it. We know we should act with the fruit of the Spirit, we know the standards. Even if we see others pulling apart people, we must resist the impulse to do the same. Judging others in teaching been done through many generations, and it will take some serious work to change our habits. However, for the sake of our character, it’s worth doing.
29200701_mr3x3xrrr
Footnotes:
a) Scriptures on Judging: Luke 6:37Matthew 7:2Hebrews 10:30
b) Did David Rape BathSheba?
No, he didn’t. Why? Well, the Bible calls rape, rape and that is not what we see here. It is more likely that as he was a king, she was flattered or awed by him and he may have offered her an incentive such as wealth, land, a promotion for her husband: anything that would enable him to fulfil his desire. Who wouldn’t want to be more popular with the King and attain a higher position in life? Many people would take an opportunity like that and she may have seen it as an honour. [Ref. 2 Samuel 11-12]

Why do I think that?
1. As I said above, the Bible calls rape, rape. It pulls no punches about where David went wrong, so why would it here?
2. When David and BathSheba’s first child dies, David is able to comfort her. There is no indication of a fractured relationship, such as the one he had with Michal. A raped woman would be traumatised. David and BathSheba went on to have four other sons together and she became Queen, which we know as the succession of all her sons is listed.
3. David is such an overtly honest person, he would have confessed it in the Psalms.
4. David was so guilt-ridden over what he had done, had he raped her, it is possible he would have arranged for her to live, well cared for and safe somewhere.
5. It did not appear to be within David’s nature to be so violent outside of war. One example is the number of times the head of his army, Joab, wanted to assassinate a direct threat to his life and kingship. Each time, David said no, even though his refusal flew in the face of common sense. Violence was not his first choice. He looked to the Lord for deliverance. [Ref. 2 Samuel 2 Samuel 15-18]


kdpcpyrght

Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

How to Control King-Sized Egos: The Examples of David and Moses

egosquashDespite his heroic feats, David is the opposite of a Hollywood action hero. He is more the anti-hero; the guy who doesn’t rely solely on his own power to be the victor, and walks away humble. If anything, the Lord was his stunt man, director, producer and all the credit went to Him.

David never made the mistake of many kings in that he didn’t turn arrogant or cocky for long. The simple truth is, God never allowed him to. Throughout his entire life, David went through life-threatening trial after trial after trial, and suffered in the face of poorly, if not completely undisguised opposition.

  • Saul wanting him dead out of jealousy, and because he realised David would be the next king. 1 Samuel 18:5-8
  • The guilt of the death of the priests of Nob being on his head, as he’d gone to them when on the run from Saul, then lied. 1 Samuel 22
  • Illness which hit him mid-life bought humiliation. 2 Samuel 21:15 (Probably diabetes.)
  • The challenge of others, such as his son, Absalom, sabotaging his authority and wanting his throne. 2 Samuel 15-18 and Psalms such as Psalm 38:12-15
  • Problems with Isra’el being weary of war and wanting a better deal economically. Psalm 4:6
  • Guilt over his sin with Bathsheba, the murder of Uriah and resulting death of his baby son. 2 Samuel 12
  • Conflicts between his tribe, Judah, and the other northern tribes, who felt he’d favoured Judah, and thus attempted to overthrow him. 2 Samuel 20
  • Gut wrenching mistakes such as the Census, which cost many lives. 2 Samuel 24

That is enough to crush many people and it is guaranteed to produce deep humility. You can win many battles and take many wives to prove your status, but when your life is under threat and you’re dependent on God for deliverance, it’s really hard to get a big head. David never dug himself out of danger. He relied on God, not his ability as a warrior, then he gave the full glory to God.

“I will praise You, LORD, with all my heart;
I will tell of all the marvellous things You have done.
I will be filled with joy because of You.
I will sing praises to Your Name, O Most High.
My enemies retreated;
they staggered and died when You appeared.” Psalm 9:1-3

David’s humility is also seen in repeated requests to have God judge him, in order that he would stay on the right path.
“How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
Keep your servant from deliberate sins!
Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt
and innocent of great sin.
May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:12-14

Another point to consider is that kings are used to people obeying them. It is easy to become accustomed to bowing and obedience and make the mistake of treating God in the same way: “I ask for help, You give it when I want it.” It is possible that some of the “how long” times which David experienced, were God letting David know that He would not be at the beck and call of a king. God is sovereign and above the reign of mankind. Making David wait would reinforce the correct order and again, keep a royal ego under control.

Moses has a similar story. Despite the status he was given in order to lead Isra’el out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, he was very well grounded. Numbers 12:3 tells us: “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” Twice, God offered to wipe out Isra’el’s rebellious tribes, and give the covenant promise to Moses and his descendants. Twice Moses refused, to honour God’s reputation before the whole earth, and to save the nation he loved. [Ref. Exodus 32:9-10 and Numbers 14:11-12]

submissive-faithIn contrast to movies such as The Prince of Egypt, which portray his story, Moses life in Pharaoh’s court appears to me, not to have been easy. He knew he was a Hebrew and was so angered by the treatment of his people, he killed an Egyptian that was mistreating a Hebrew slave and had to flee. Pharaoh didn’t save his precious boy, Moses. He had nowhere to run for preferential treatment.

It is debatable as to whether Moses ever fit into the royal household, or whether he always felt like an outsider. Unless his speech impediment had a physical cause, that kind of insecurity and turmoil could have caused his stuttering; (which oddly, is never mentioned after the Israelites leave Egypt.) He was hesitant to approach Pharaoh to ask for the release of the Hebrew slaves, which also indicates that he knew he would not be treated like a long-lost adopted son. Tough lives develop character and few had it as abundantly as Moses did. Thank God both Moses and David did stay humble. Many millennia later, we are still benefitting from their achievements and example.

So next time life gets you down and appears to be falling apart, take heart. Maybe God is allowing your pain to keep you humble and gentle as well. Neither David or Moses were likely candidates to become the leader of a nation. You never know where the Lord will take you.

“My heart is confident in You, O God;
no wonder I can sing Your praises with all my heart!” Psalm 108:1


kdpcpyrght

Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

What the Torah Taught David About the Love of God

yhwhIt’s not easy to keep your faith level high while experiencing this kind of chaotic stress:
“O LORD, how long will You forget me? Forever?
How long will You look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
Turn and answer me, O LORD my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.
But I trust in Your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because You have rescued me.
I will sing to the LORD
because He is good to me.” Psalm 13

Like all of us, David struggled with his relationship with the Lord when the heat was turned up. Through a haze of stress and fear, he wondered where the Lord had gotten to. At times, as was the culture of the era, he took God’s silence as possible rejection and fretted over what would become of him. Had he been judged as so sinful that God had walked away? Thankfully, his problems always end with God’s hoped for deliverance arriving, and a deeper, richer understanding of God’s love and character.

David didn’t have the entire Old Testament and the New Testament to teach him what we know about God. All he had was the written laws of Moses and the stories of Isra’el’s history (Torah), yet he had an incredible, dynamic faith that has stood the test of time as a powerful example to others. So without Jesus as the prime example, how did he know about the full character of God?

I have made the mistake of thinking of the Torah as a historical reference. Until I began to write this article, I hadn’t properly looked at what those books tell us about the character of God. I prefer to read about the love and gentleness of Jesus, rather than about battles and plagues. I enjoy reading Paul’s letters: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39.

As I began to search for clues about God’s character in the Torah, I Googled Scriptures about the love of God. The Open Bible.info gave me a list of 59, with only one coming from the Torah. [Ref. Exodus 19:5] With the exception of a few Psalms, which were written by David so they don’t count, the rest of the love Scriptures came into being well after David’s time. They are the ones I am familiar with and rely on, so no wonder I hadn’t dug back further.

The answer is God’s loving kindness has been repeatedly, clearly displayed since Genesis 1. The Torah is as rich in references to God’s amazing love as the New Testament. Here are some examples:

  • Despite the catastrophe, God physically looked after Adam and Eve after they had sinned. [Ref. Genesis 3:21]
  • Noah was saved from the flood and God made a covenant with him, because God’s people are too important to be left behind. [Ref. Genesis chapters 6-9]
  • Abraham was a friend of God. He was saved from being childless and “God had blessed him in every way,” by the time he was an old man. [Ref. Genesis 12-24]
  • God dried tears and generously provided basic needs in life for his people, such as wives and He reversed barrenness in faithful women such as Rebecca, in Genesis 25. God’s kindness to a grieving Hagar is another beautiful picture of compassion combined with a practical solution. [Ref. Genesis 21]
  • The deliverance and blessing of Joseph speaks volumes about God’s kindness and guard, not to mention his plan for us as individuals. No matter how awful life got, he never left Joseph down on his luck for long. [Ref. Genesis 37-50]
  • a8a6bacac7c86b28314c4f4616891a59In *Exodus, God delivered Isra’el from Egypt because He heard their pain. In the wilderness they were supplied with every spiritual and physical need, despite their rebellion, and they were promised that God would delight in them. [Ref. Deuteronomy 30:9-10] This includes food, water, healing, **conquering their enemies miraculously multiple times, being physically present with them and more. Even the ten commandments are loving safety guidelines for a people who’d been subject only to pagan gods and rituals, and needed to learn how to live better lives. [Ref. Exodus 20] Deuteronomy 4:31: “For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath.”
  • In Leviticus 26:1-13 God promises to live among His people and walk among them. He isn’t in Heaven looking down, He lived and moved alongside man. At this time in history, every other nation was trying to placate their gods, who they were terrified of.
  • Moses’ close friendship with God is a beautiful example of God’s willingness to form a bond with His people. This is highlighted in Exodus 33:33:12-23. In Exodus 34:5-7, God describes Himself to Moses including, “I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.”
  • God’s patience is shown in the book of Judges again and again, and again, as Isra’el repeatedly rebels. In Deuteronomy 28, God sets out the curses of disobedience and gives the people five massive, staged warnings to turn back to Him; then even when they have completely rejected God and have been torn away from their birthright, He says, “But despite all this, I will not utterly reject or despise them while they are in exile in the land of their enemies. I will not cancel my covenant with them by wiping them out, for I am the LORD their God. For their sakes I will remember my ancient covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of all the nations, that I might be their God. I am the LORD.” Leviticus 26:44-45 and Deuteronomy 4:29-31 “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey Him. For the Lord your God is a merciful God; He will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which He confirmed to them by oath.”

As I said above, this is not an exhaustive list. How can David have known all these stories and not known the love of God? He can’t and he didn’t.
“Remember, O LORD, your compassion and unfailing love,
which you have shown from long ages past.” Psalm 25:6

“Let all that I am praise the LORD;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Let all that I am praise the LORD;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.
He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!
…He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:1-5 and 10-12

That Psalm repeats the entire message of the Torah, which is that God was in an active, covenant relationship with His people which He will never discard. That relationship is still not complete and never will be. God will always fight for and provide for His people with a fierce, jealous love and David knew he was wanted, treasured, provided for and sought after; the problems with his walk with God only showed up… when his judgement was smothered by pain.

So next time you feel discouraged, or like God has abandoned you, don’t beat yourself up over your lack of faith. We all go through it, including spiritual giants like David. Fear and grief take over and dominate our thoughts, and we don’t reason straight. However, like David, we will also get through it. He always has been there for His people and He is not about to leave us now, no matter what…

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Notes:
*Exodus 19:1-6: “On the first day of the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on that very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai. After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain. Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

**The battles God fought for Isra’el, up until David’s time, which would have served as an example to him.
– Crossing the Red Sea – Exodus 14
– Victory over the Amalekites – Exodus 17:8-16
– Promise to fight for the people – Exodus 23:27-31 and Deuteronomy 7:7-8
– Jordan River dry crossing – Joshua 3:15-16
– Fall of Jericho – Joshua 6:20-21
– Ai – Joshua 8
– Amonites – Joshua 10:11
– North captured for Isra’el – Joshua 11:16-20, especially verse 23
– South captured for Isra’el – Joshua 10:40-42
– Deborah and Barak – Judges 4:14-15
– Gideon – Judges 7
– Samson – Judges 16, especially verse 30
– Ark of the Covenant against the Philistines – 1 Samuel 7
– Saul’s first battle, against King Nahash of Ammon – 1 Samuel 11
– Jonathan against the Philistines – 1 Samuel 14

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The inspiration for this post came from ‘Fierce,’ by Jesus Culture
Before I call
Before I ever cry
You answer me
From where the thunder hides
I can’t outrun
This heart I’m tethered to
When every step
I collide with You

Like a tidal wave
Crashing over me
Rushing in to meet me here
Your love is fierce
Like a hurricane
That I can’t escape
Tearing through the atmosphere
Your love is fierce

You cannot fail
The only thing I’ve found
Is through it all
You never let me down
You don’t hold back
Relentless in pursuit
At every turn
I come face to face with You

Like a tidal wave
Crashing over me
Rushing in to meet me here
Your love is fierce
Like a hurricane
That I can’t escape
Tearing through the atmosphere

Your love is fierce
You surround me
You chase me down
You seek me out
How can I be lost
When You have called me found
You chase me down
You seek…


kdpcpyrght

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The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

King David’s Diplomacy: Manipulative or Spirit Driven?

donotjudgeLearning about King David has been a continual reminder to never judge, especially as no matter how much I have studied, because David’s life is presented as a series of anecdotes, I will never have all the facts. I look at some of David’s actions as a leader and I honestly don’t know whether to trust him, call him a schemer, or give him the benefit of the doubt, as maybe he was doing the right thing? In some cases it did seem like David was doing the only right thing that could be done; the problem is, as he lied in some incidents leading up to pivotal events, he’s given me reason to doubt his character. Without knowing what he was thinking, his motives can look suspicious.

The text which makes me doubt him the *most is at the beginning of 2 Samuel. King Ishbosheth’s Captain, Abner, is murdered by Joab, the Philistines have killed Saul and Jonathan and Isra’el is divided by civil war. Ishbosheth rules the north and David, Judah, in the south. Both kingdoms must come together, and angered by Ishbosheth, Abner decides he will make David King of all.

“Meanwhile, Abner had consulted with the elders of Israel. “For some time now,” he told them, “you have wanted to make David your king. Now is the time! For the LORD has said, ‘I have chosen David to save my people Israel from the hands of the Philistines and from all their other enemies.’” Abner also spoke with the men of Benjamin. Then he went to Hebron to tell David that all the people of Israel and Benjamin had agreed to support him.” 2 Samuel 3:17-19

Abner is not the kind of man you want to trust, but David had to, and did. However, dirty business had gone on in the background between Joab’s brothers and Abner, and at a critical point, Joab murdered Abner in cold blood, in revenge for killing his brother Asahel. [Ref. 1 Samuel 2 and 3]

Quite rightly, David was angry. That murder opened the way for David to be made King of all of Isra’el and he could easily have been blamed for the murder. So he makes a smart move:
“Then David said to Joab and all those who were with him, “Tear your clothes and put on burlap. Mourn for Abner.” And King David himself walked behind the procession to the grave. They buried Abner in Hebron, and the king and all the people wept at his graveside. Then the king sang this funeral song for Abner:
“Should Abner have died as fools die?
Your hands were not bound;
your feet were not chained.
No, you were murdered—
the victim of a wicked plot.”
All the people wept again for Abner. David had refused to eat anything on the day of the funeral, and now everyone begged him to eat. But David had made a vow, saying, “May God strike me and even kill me if I eat anything before sundown.”
This pleased the people very much. In fact, everything the king did pleased them! So everyone in Judah and all Israel understood that David was not responsible for Abner’s murder.
Then King David said to his officials, “Don’t you realize that a great commander has fallen today in Israel? And even though I am the anointed king, these two sons of Zeruiah—Joab and Abishai—are too strong for me to control. So may the LORD repay these evil men for their evil deeds.” 2 Samuel 3:31-39

So, how genuine do you think David’s grief was? It does appear that it could have been wholly politically motivated. However, remember that most of the story is missing.

  1. Could David have fought alongside Abner when they were both in Saul’s army? Battlefields make for deep bonds and who knows, one of them could have saved the other’s life. Their relationship is completely unknown other than a few brief conversations.
  2. There is an old tradition within military circles which goes back to ancient times: even if you don’t like someone in authority, you salute them as you respect their rank, regardless of what you think of the man. This could have applied and would reflect well on David’s character.
  3. We don’t know what Abner’s military service record was. He could have been a great hero of the nation, deserving the utmost respect. To be a commander in Saul’s army he would have been a brave man and an excellent warrior. David may be rightfully honouring that.
  4. Showing kindness to someone by respecting their reputation is always an excellent move.

yhryhrDavid did what was culturally right, what was politically right, what was Scripturally right and what also saved his hide. Whichever way your opinion of David’s actions sways, his actions were a win and were overwhelmingly approved by the people. He was God’s choice for the throne and this event soon after enabled the Lord’s Will to be put in place.

Shortly after, Ishbosheth was murdered in his bed, a cowardly act which also enraged David. That was a dishonourable way to dethrone a king, especially as his murderers then went to David wanting favour for handing him the northern kingdom. David correctly had these traitors immediately put to death. [Ref: 2 Samuel 4]

Whatever you think of David, he was an excellent leader who was congenial, righteous and popular with the people; and when the scales were balanced, “the LORD made David victorious wherever he went….David reigned over all Israel and did what was just and right for all his people.” 2 Samuel 8:14b-15 Unless his heart was in the right place and he was acting correctly under God’s favour, that would not have been the case.

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*David mourned Saul and Jonathan in a similar, appropriate manner (regardless of what he must have thought of Saul,) in the Song of the Bow. [2 Samuel 1] This is the other act of diplomacy which has me wondering exactly what motivated David to say words like these:
“O women of Israel, weep for Saul,
for he dressed you in luxurious scarlet clothing,
in garments decorated with gold.
Oh, how the mighty heroes have fallen in battle!
Jonathan lies dead on the hills.” 1 Samuel 1:24-25


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Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

Musings on Michal: When Bitterness Sets In

judging bathshebaOne of the biggest problems we have with understanding people in the Bible, is that we often only receive a quick, isolated snapshot of their lives. We are not presented with a well rounded image of their personality, spiritual views or life experience. Thus it becomes very easy to label people as entirely good or bad, based on what we see and without taking into account, possible reasons why they came to be at the place and attitude they have reached. If one of these snapshots is negative and it’s the first one we see, then that person is branded.

I feel deeply for King David’s first wife, Michal. The most commonly quoted Scriptures concerning her are:
2 Samuel 6:16: “But as the Ark of the LORD entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she was filled with contempt for him.”

and

2 Samuel 6:20-23: “When David returned home to bless his own family, Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet him. She said in disgust, “How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls like any vulgar person might do!” David retorted to Michal, “I was dancing before the LORD, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the LORD, so I celebrate before the LORD. Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes! But those servant girls you mentioned will indeed think I am distinguished! So Michal, the daughter of Saul, remained childless throughout her entire life.”

This is an ugly picture.

While this part of Michal’s story serves an important purpose, teaching us a beneficial lesson about worship, it profiles Michal in a manner which sadly reflects a second stereotype within our western society: that of a haughty, power influenced royal, which we commonly tend to despise. The influence of that image was seen in 2013 in Lorde’s song, Royals.

But every song’s like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin’ in the bathroom
Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin’ the hotel room,
We don’t care, we’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams.
But everybody’s like crystal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece.
Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash.
We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair.

And we’ll never be royals.
It don’t run in our blood,
That kind of luxe just ain’t for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz.

In a democratic society and with what we’ve learnt from history, the terms royal, or royalty, conjure up starchy monarchs, misusing power and acting to benefit themselves, more than helping their people. This is what psychologists call a confirmation bias. When we see Michal’s attitude, all this additional cultural information comes back and she can be judged by us in an even harsher manner. That we find her stereotype hard to relate to, doesn’t help make her any more human either.

Did Michal act wrongly towards David and the Lord? Yes; however, what is an appropriate Christian response to her story?

The Bible clearly states not to judge, regardless of whether the offender is dead or alive. [Ref. Luke 6:37, Matthew 7:2, Hebrews 10:30] What we can do is take from the text, the lesson: to serve God with an open, abandoned heart and then, without judging, it can be useful to look back at the rest of Michal’s life and try to understand how she came to a place of such bitterness.

Before Michal fell in love and married David, she lived with a father who was tortured by a demon and fell prey to moods which, at the very least, would have had a significant and detrimental affect on his youngest daughter. Saul’s temper would have likely resulted in her being verbally abused and to be truthful, considering Saul’s mental state and history as a warrior and towards David, it would be unsurprising to find out that he had been violent at home. Michal could have experienced that.

She then married the young David, who she loved, and went to what would hopefully be a more stable, peaceful home. [1 Samuel 18:17-30] Instead, Saul was attempting to kill David out of jealousy, which resulted in Michal making a very brave move. Knowing the ferocity of her father, she helped David escape death, by letting him out of a window of their home and she lied to her father. In the face of a tall, murderous man, this is not a small accomplishment. It would take a lot of courage. [1 Samuel 19]

Saul got his revenge, however. He remarried her off to Palti, where, estranged from David by the war between him and Saul, she must have gone through the kind of grief and agony none of us would ever wish for. [1 Samuel 25:44]

Stop and imagine what may have gone through her mind in that seven years:
“David will be killed. I have lost my husband.”
Perhaps, “why hasn’t he found a way to come back for me? Doesn’t he love me?”
The mortification of being handed off forcefully to another man. “How can my father do this?”
Perhaps she hung onto hope, for at least a time, that David could rectify the situation. However, seven years is a long time and with only small facts and rumours of where David was and what he was doing to give her any hope, that hope could have been remorselessly smashed over and over.

In the end, Michal, with a slowly mending, broken heart, could have come to terms with her new situation. She appears to have been a good wife and may have settled. Then what happens? Her father dies, David demands her back and she is sent to what is now a palace in Hebron which houses other wives and concubines with children. She is childless and at the bottom of the pecking order, suffering from the emotional consequences of another upheaval.

In circumstances such as these, most people’s faith in both their husband and their God would take quite a beating. She has been thrown around like an old potato sack, through no fault or choice of her own.

While I do not have anywhere near as much of her story to ponder as I would like, it appears to my, from a psychological point of view, that Michal may have made the mistake of coping with her ever-changing circumstances by retreating back to the royal role she had been bought up in within Saul’s household. She became regal and from David’s response to her, it seems this wasn’t a one-off outburst.

maslowpurchased

The psychology behind this is simple and makes sense. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs you can see how when her level of love and belonging needs were not met, she has compensated by moving up and placing emphasis on the esteem needs (which Maslow’s theory does not make room for and is a major criticism of his model.) If Michal felt like she didn’t belong in the new regime, plus if she still felt unsafe in any way through being moved around, and because Isra’el was at war with David, she may have focussed on what she knew and sadly, that leads us back to the verses at the top of this page. The turmoil resulted in a bitter, hardened heart and that makes me feel very sad for her.

I hope Michal turned around and was able to heal before she died. I hope that somehow, she found peace in her God. Whether she did that or not is not recorded, but my heart breaks for her when I think about what she went through. If nothing else, when I see the raw part of her story, I make an effort to remember the brave, hurting young woman who once lost everything.


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.