"Kingship" Peter Kutuzov || One Story Ten Questions: Part 2 - 22 May 2016
AN UNCONDITIONAL PROMISE – DAVID’S LEGACY
Some people don’t just manage to make it to the top. They seem to have a divine right to stay there.
Rama IX, king of Thailand, has ruled his nation for 70 years, and is adored by his people.
Sometimes, there’s no way of explaining how someone got to, or stays, at the top.
This is Kim Kardashian. Who is famous for… I’m not actually quite sure… if someone can explain that to me.
But whoever it is who pays her for whatever she does, but they gave her 53 million dollars last year and 45.5 million people want to know everything that she says on Twitter.
But other times, there IS an explanation for how someone’s stayed at the top for so long, but you have to look closely. I’m talking about ex-president of FIFA, Sep Blatter.
He was head of the Governing body that controls soccer in every country in the world from 1998 to 2015. Which is incredible when the position gets voted on every 4 years. He managed to keep every country in the world happy with him for 17 years.
Some of our prime ministers can’t make 17 months!
Now the divine rights of a FIFA president are quite extensive.
For starters FIFA is a not-for-profit organisation who pay no tax in any country in the world. A not-for-profit organisation who has 1.5 billion dollars in their bank account. That’s not profit, according to Blatter, it’s a reserve for a rainy day.
And for years, everybody knew that the rainy day that the money was used for was buying votes. But there was nothing that anyone could do about it. For 17 years, the man was untouchable.
Until American delegate Chuck Blazer was investigated for corruption by the FBI, and spilled the beans on the whole of FIFA.
This guy was getting so much money that he had an apartment in Trump Tower that he rented exclusively for the use of his cat.
For 17 years, this was the kind of thing that Blatter and his cronies got away with. He seemed to have this divine right to the presidency. No matter how many controversies, cover-ups and scandals, he just won term after term.
It was amazing. But for football fans, we knew it was going to happen. It was inevitable. Every time.
And the promise that David gets from God in this chapter is very similar. Divine right to an everlasting dynasty.
No questions asked.
No conditions required.
So our passage starts with David already at the top.
You can see it there in verse 1.
Despite humble beginnings as a shepherd David has become the King of Israel. And he’s defeated all Israel’s enemies, so that they’re at complete peace. He’s even had time to build himself a fancy palace made from all the best materials the world has to offer.
But he’s feeling a touch guilty.
David, who’s top of the pile, laments how his God has been forgotten amongst all of his great victories. David has all the glory, all the publicity.
So David’s a bit like an actress who’s just won the gold Logie. In his mind he’s up there giving his acceptance speech and HE’s won the Logie, but he wants to make sure he thanks the writers for their help. And David’s not ungrateful so he says that God should get some of the glory of this great victory as well.
I should build him a house, David says. A temple or something.
UNDERSTAND THE SCENE
Now, please do understand the scene here. Because this is about as privileged as things get.
Top dog of the top dog nation says to his personal prophet that after conquering the world they should throw God a bone.
And Nathan says, “Whatever you do will be just great. God’s with you, you know.”
Well, God doesn’t quite see things this way at all.
You can see it there in verses 5-7.
Um… do you think that YOU did this, David? You think YOU’RE throwing ME a bone? Nononononononono.
That’s not how this works.
I don’t NEED a house. I’ve NEVER needed a house.
And if you cast your eye down to verse 7, God asks, “When have I ever reprimanded ANY of my underlings for not building me a house?” A subtle reminder to David that the king of Israel is an underling of God.
No, God says to Nathan, I’m going to tell David how it is.
You’re not going to build ME a house. I’m going to build one for you.
DAVID IS GOD’S GUY
See, David is God’s homeboy. His guy. His right-hand man. His representative on earth.
And God’s going to keep backing him. He’s given him a lot.
Verses 8 to 9. I took you from the gutter, from leading sheep to leading a nation. And wherever you were, I cut off your enemies before you. I gave you your victories, David. You don’t just give me credit in your acceptance speech. You thank me for giving you that prize in the first place.
But it’s ok. We’re good. You’re my guy and you’re going to always be my guy. I’m going to make your name great. Forget the Logies, I’m getting you an Oscar! Your name is going to be the greatest of anyone on this planet.
And your enemies? I’ll deal with them.
Anyone who opposes you, opposes me. I’m going to make this place, this garden of Canaan, a safe place for me to live with my people again. A return to the blessing of the garden of Eden.
These are all the same things that God promised to Abraham when he began the Israel-rescues-the-world project back in Week 3.
And it’ll be just like it used to be. Mission accomplished.
And it’s not just going to be with you. It’s going to be with your children too. From now on, your children have divine right of rule of this nation. Your son after you and his son after him, forever.
Unconditional. You’ll always have the divine right of rule here.
Now there was that bit in there about God punishing the king when they disobey him, so there’ll be consequences for disobedience, but the promise of a legacy is unconditional.
SOUNDS LIKE A SCAM
Now it’s worth thinking through what this part of the bible is, and when it would have been being read. Because it has some interesting political implications.
The book of Samuel covers from the start of kingship in Israel and goes almost to the end of David’s life. Which means that its readers were probably the people of Israel in all the generations after David had died. Probably the kind of people who could read, so mainly the powerful families in the nation. The ones who might want to have a say in the way things ran.
Maybe even think that they’d do a better job of being the king themselves.
So if you’re the head of a powerful tribe, who wants to be king, can I just say that this whole prophecy business is awfully convenient.
Imagine that David’s great grandson is on the throne. He’s not doing a very good job.
Well, the prophecy says, David’s son is the true king. Forever.
No matter how badly he’s doing. So…
Michel Foucault was a philosopher who started the idea that truth claims are power plays. If you claim to know the objective truth, it’s an exercise of power over other people because YOU’RE determining the story.
And this goes doubly so for messages from God. Because, who can prove you’re wrong?
If you think about it, where did this ‘promise’ come from?
The most powerful man in the land asked his personal prophet to talk to God on his behalf and he comes back with a message saying that God is going to make him even more famous and that his sons will rule forever. Well, that’s a shock! No-one could’ve predicted that!
You think you’d be a better king? Well, I’m sorry, but God promised it to David’s son. And all the people know it.
I could understand your scepticism. Based on just this passage, the book of Samuel looks like political propaganda for the Davidic royal family. A claim of the divine right of kings to eliminate all competition.
A way of controlling the national story, and so holding on to power. Pure and simple.
I mean, that kind of claim to divine right to rule is one of the reasons for the rise of western liberal democracy. The French revolution was about throwing off the shackles of the ruling class who were abusing the rest, all the while claiming the divine right to do so. God said, so we’re in charge.
Well, if it IS a scam. The scam continues. So follow along with me, because this is not the end of David’s story. And if you remember what happened in the garden of Eden in week 2 of our series, many of these details will seem very, very familiar.
Remember Eve seeing the fruit? That it looked good? Being tricked into thinking that God’s been holding good things back from her? Taking it? Trying to blame the act on someone else?
In 2 Samuel chapter 11, just a few chapters after this promise is given, the same author tells us that David is staying behind in the middle of the garden, instead of being out on the borders protecting it.
From the rooftop he sees something that looks very good.
Bathsheba, bathing. He knows that she is forbidden to him, but he send his servant to bring her to him. And he takes her.
Soon enough, Bathsheba sends word to him. I’m pregnant.
And now, David has to cover his tracks.
He finds out that her husband is out where he should be, protecting the nation by extending its borders. He calls him home to try to get him to sleep with his wife, but he refuses. And when he does so, David sends a letter back to he war with him, containing instructions to have him killed.
And God is displeased with David.
So he sends that very same prophet, Nathan, to David, this time with a very different message.
NATHAN REBUKES DAVID
The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said,
There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. 4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.” 5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” 7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah.And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.
Now God DOES punish David, as he said he would.
In fact, the rest of the history of Israel’s kings plays out much like the rest of Genesis after Genesis 3. The sin of the father is copied by the children, and spreads through the land.
And just like his father, Solomon uses women for his own personal purposes and it is HIS downfall. As he build temples for their gods to appease them, and so condemns Israel’s mission, which had looked so good on the outside! To failure.
Almost all the promises were fulfilled. Even the nations had started coming in to be blessed, just like God had said they would, with the Queen of Sheba visiting Solomon to hear his wisdom. But as sin spread they give up worshipping the God who brought them into the land and eventually the whole nation, including the Davidic king, is thrown out of the land into exile.
Just as Adam and Eve were exiled from God’s presence in the garden.
NOT THE ONLY CASE
The bible is a funny thing. It manages to hold these two things together that you don’t see anywhere else.
The failure of even the best of his people.
And the patient love of God himself, who keeps his promises even to bad people.
This is what was happening last week.
The Bible story talks about how the Canaanites were rightly and justly judged for their sins, but it didn’t whitewash Israel’s role. In fact, they come out looking even worse than the Canaanites at points! And God fairly judges them too.
Thing is: Instead of whitewashing their heroes, the Bible tells their stories in the most gritty, realistic darkness you can imagine.
And the Bible does this time after time.
Funny thing is, this is unparalelled. Ancient historian John Dickson says:
Quite unlike any national history of antiquity that I know of, the Old Testament writers almost delight in telling you how sinful their nation is and how sinful their heroes and kings are, and yet how merciful God is toward the nation. I have never seen this approach to historical writing in anything I’ve come across in the literature of Egypt, Babylon, Greece, or Rome.This might have been a great document to have around But if things are going bad for the nation, well anyone who’s read this promise will know that it’s the King’s fault. When he sins, I will punish him, God promised.
This is not the political get out of jail free card for David’s family that it first looked like. It’s no cover-up.
And I think this gives us great confidence as we read the bible. This is no whitewash. It’s warts and all. It’s the most honest account of a people ever written by its own people.
The beautiful thing about the Bible story is that there is a better king than David coming. One who is different to every other character in the bible.
He is good.
And in dying on the cross, King Jesus fulfils the mission of Israel, by obeying God and becoming a blessing to the whole world by taking their sin on himself.
Which is what enables God to make another unconditional promise.
Romans 8:1 says,
There is no condemnation now for those who are in King Jesus.Jesus gives an unconditional promise to His people that their sins are dealt with, and they have absolutely nothing to fear on judgement day.
GOD’S UNCONDITIONAL PROMISE TO YOU
For those of us who ARE followers of Jesus here this morning, the question is: What do we DO with the unconditional promise of God?
How do you respond to the fact that God will forgive all of your sins?
The great model of the Old Testament writers is that the power of that unconditional promise, that God would one day save his people, meant that they had the guts to tell the truth. No need to whitewash things. The real, dirty truth.
And this is what God’s promise to us in the New Testament allows us to do as well.
Sometimes we get God’s unconditional love for us twisted.
Instead of helping me to be honest about my sin, and thankful for God’s mercy, it gives me a slight sense of entitlement.
When you have a conflict with someone at work, do tend to assume that it’s their fault?
Slight sense of superiority in the background.
I go to church.
At least TRY to be good, how could I possibly be the problem when this sinner’s right here in front of me?
When someone doesn’t like something we’ve done, do we stop and ask, “Was there something about the way I did this that makes their hurt understandable?” Or do we have a safety net that no-one else has? We should be experts in admitting our faults, like the prophets of the bible. We know that whatever we admit, God has it covered.
Whether it be a weakness or a sin.
The unconditional love of God gives you safety you need to face it.
The fact that nothing can take away his love for you means that you don’t need to impress, Him or anyone else, because you’re loved.
What right do you have NOT to confess sin, when Jesus has died for it?
Accounted for it, paid for it, on the cross.
What, we’re going to pretend it’s not real? It’s not there?
For non Christians, I hope you can see the integrity in the Bible story.
Its ability to honestly confess the sin of its people, just like we need to, and its ability to talk about a God whose love makes that kind of honesty possible.