May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you.
1 Samuel 24:12 (NIV)
One of the things I’m discovering on my current stretch of Life’s road is that my spiritual life is growing deeper and more meaningful even as my body begins to show the signs of the aging process that will continue to lead to its inevitable, physical demise.
I have been preparing a message for the past few weeks on a familiar piece of Jesus’ teaching called The Beatitudes. As I have been memorizing, studying, and meditating on them I have come to realize that it is a road map for what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. One commentator I read called it “a new way to be human.”
I suppose that it’s inevitable that as I meditate deeply on Jesus’ nine-fold path of being that it would become a filter through which I begin to see new things in old stories. Like today’s chapter.
I have mentioned in recent posts that the saga of Saul and David is a study in contrasts, and those contrasts continue in today’s episode.
King Saul holds all the worldly power. He has a nation’s army at his command. He has an entourage catering to his every whim and seeking to ride the gravy train to their own personal empowerment. King Saul has become obsessed with killing his young rival, David.
David has no earthly power. He is living a life on the run. He’s hiding in a cave in the desert with a rag-tag crew of misfits and mercenaries. He was anointed as God’s to-be King by Samuel, but that doesn’t seem to be coming to fruition any time soon. In fact, looking at the circumstances, I’ve got to believe that David is wondering if the whole thing is some kind of joke.
In today’s chapter, King Saul and his army are on the hunt for David. They’re in a desert area that is riddled with caves. King Saul finds himself needing to “answer nature’s call” so he steps into one of the caves to have a “seat on the throne,” so to speak. What he doesn’t know is that David and his men are in hiding just a bit deeper in the back of the cave.
From the perspective of the culture of those times, this is David’s chance. His men are adamant that David assassinate Saul and make his prophesied rise happen. No one would bat an eye if David were to seize this opportunity. They live in a dog-eat-dog world of conquest. Kill-or-be-killed is their everyday reality. The strongest and most violent are the ones who rise to power in their world. There’s no person in the world who would question David’s actions were he to take out his vengeance on the mad King who had, unjustifiably, ruined his life and made his daily existence a living hell.
This is where David is different. God told Samuel that David was “a man after my own heart.” David wasn’t concerned with what everyone in this world would think. David was concerned with what the God of heaven would think. David is revealing “a different way to be human.”
“Blessed are the poor in spirit…”
David is embracing his impoverished circumstances and placing his trust in God to fulfill his destiny, not take it into his own hands.
“Blessed are those who mourn…”
David is embracing his lament, turning them into poetic songs, and seeking the comfort of God’s mercy rather than his personal revenge.
“Blessed are the meek…”
David has the power to assassinate the King, but he humbly chooses not to use that power.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…”
David willingly chooses not to be a judge, jury, and executioner, deferring justice and vengeance on Saul to God.
“Blessed are the merciful…”
David mercifully treats Saul as he would like to be treated by Saul.
“Blessed are the pure in heart…”
David is more concerned with the condition of his heart than the condition of his circumstances.
“Blessed are the peacemakers…”
David, having cut off a piece of King Saul’s robe as the monarch was indisposed, confronts Saul in an effort to peacefully resolve their conflict.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness…”
David’s entire life has become that of unjust persecution because God has blessed him and not Saul. Still, David humbly surrenders to God’s will and God’s timing for the right time to lift him to the position and power that has been prophesied.
“Blessed are you when others insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice, and be glad…”
At the end of today’s episode, Saul goes back to his palace, power, and position while David retreats back into his cave where he picks up his lyre and pens the lyrics of Psalm 57 in which he laments living among “lions, ravenous beasts, and men whose teeth are sharp spears” (remember Saul twice tried to kill David with his spear), but then in the very next line writes:
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.
If the Beatitudes are Jesus’ prescription for a different way of being human, then David was the ancient prototype.
In the quiet this morning, I simply find myself desiring to live however many days I have left on this earthly journey exemplifying Jesus’ nine-fold path of being human, just like David did.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.