How much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!”
2 Samuel 4:11 (NIV)
Every human system, small or large, has its rules of behavior. Most often, they are unwritten. Even if there is some sort of written code of conduct, there are still unwritten rules that guide people’s behaviors. At home, on the playground, in the cafeteria, in the workplace, in church, and in our communities we learn to behave within the unwritten rules of the systems in which we live and breathe and have our being.
I don’t think we can quite imagine or comprehend exactly what life was like within the human systems of David’s day. Even reading in yesterday’s chapter of David’s many wives, children with those wives, and his demand of the return of his wife Michal like he was reclaiming a piece of property. It’s hard for us to comprehend living life in those rules.
One of the things I love about reading the stories of David is that he’s not some stereotypical hero who does everything perfectly. Quite the contrary, David is an extremely flawed human being who makes huge, costly mistakes – yet for all that he is still “a man after God’s own heart.” That gives me hope. I see David constantly striving to live by God’s rules even while he’s mired in the messy human systems of his day.
In the past few chapters we’ve read two instances of men who believe that they are getting in David’s good graces by killing David’s enemy and bringing the evidence to him. I have to believe that this was standard operating procedure of the unwritten rules of regional war and politics in David’s day. This was how local power brokers ruled. Kill my enemy for me, bring me evidence of it, and I’ll reward you richly. If you kill off the sons of my enemy then you’ve made my position even stronger (because there’s not a stray son out there plotting revenge … think Vito Corleone in The Godfather II). Kill my enemy, kill my enemies sons and you might even find yourself with a cushy position of power in my administration or army. That’s the way it works. Those are the unwritten rules.
But not for David. In these instances we see David playing by a different set of rules. In David’s eyes, Saul was still God’s anointed king. Jonathan was still his best friend. Saul was still the father of his best friend and Jonathan was still the son of God’s anointed king. In David’s eyes, God’s rules trump the unwritten rules of the local human system. You don’t lay your hands on God’s anointed – not even if you’re the one anointed to eventually take his place. You don’t kill the son of God’s anointed. Period.
Today I’m thinking about the unwritten rules of the human systems in which I live and breathe and have my being. Are there ways in which my words and behavior are unconsciously incongruent with God’s desire because I’m mindlessly behaving in the way I’ve been conditioned? Am I willing to play by a different set of rules when God’s desires run contrary to prevailing cultural mores?