I have gone back to reading in the Old Testament this week. I finished I Samuel and started II Samuel. One thing I have been observing during these chapters has been the contrast between Saul and David. We see Saul hiding from the plan God had for him, reluctant to even be crowned king. But, then as king we see him trying to take over, do things his own way, disregarding commands, never repenting of his sin, getting jealous, fearful, angry, vengeful. In chapter 28 of I Samuel, we see Saul visiting a medium to get answers regarding this current war he was in against the Philistines. The medium brings up, at Saul's request, Samuel from the dead. (Anyone else creeped out by this?!?!) Samuel immediately asks why Saul has thus disturbed him. Saul complains that God was not answering him and that he was in great distress (I Sam. 28:15).Samuel's response to Saul is this: "Why then do you ask from me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore, the Lord has done this thing to you this day. Moreover, the Lord will give Israel also with you into the hand of he Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The Lord will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines" (I Sam. 28:16-19). After Saul hears this, Scripture tells us he was filled with fear and fell down on the ground, having no strength to stand.
Fast forward now to chapter 30 of II Samuel. In this chapter David is just returning from having been part of the Philistine army to now NOT being part of it. Apparently some of the big wigs in the Philistine army were nervous David would turn his back on them and fight against them. So, Achisch, the king of Philistia, told David to go back because he didn't want to cause division in his army. (It's a long story how David ended up there in the first place!! You'll have to read I Samuel :) ). When David arrives back to Ziklag (where he and his men had been living), they discovered the Amalekites had raided it, burned everything to the ground, and took all the women and children. David and all the people who were with him immediately begin weeping. Scripture tells us both David's wives were captured. And, that "David was greatly distressed". He was not only stressed because of the fact all these people were gone, their homes burned, and so on, but because the remaining people who were with him were talking of stoning him! (I Sam. 30:6) So, what does David do? We read, "But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God."
He then inquires of the Lord what to do. God instructs him to "Pursue, for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue!"
What a contrast between these two situations. And the results are drastically different. Saul ends up attempting to kill himself (we read in II Samuel that he didn't die immediately but that an Amalekite actually finished the killing: see II Sam. 1:7-10). David ends up obeying God, getting his wives and families back, conquering the Amalekites, and then, as we begin II Samuel, we see David constantly doing things "differently". The beginning of II Samuel is, honestly, quite disgusting. We see the commander of Saul's army trying to crown Saul's remaining son king. But in the process, there's fights among the men in David's army, people fighting each other, committing murder. And, yet, in all these terrible things, David takes the opposite approach. His responses are always God-focused. We continually see the phrase, "David inquired of the Lord"; we also see David's actions are not without reason. He mourns the deaths of Saul, Jonathan, and Saul's other sons. He enacts justice on those who thought they were doing right but, in actuality were taking matters into their own hands. He constantly points to the Lord, to God's plan, God's anointed, and God's purposes.
I then came to II Samuel 6 where David is attempting to bring the Ark back to Israel. There's this familiar story of Uzzah touching the ark and God striking him dead. We see David is confused, angry, frightened by this response from God. Yet, in all these things, David recognized once again, that God was to be exalted.
Because the second time they moved the ark, they did it correctly. Instead of carrying it in a cart, it was moved properly, on the shoulders of the priests.
All these passages and circumstances point to one thing: the glory of God and the exaltation of his name.
For example: Saul.
He never repented of his sins.
He went so low as the employ a diviner (which was forbidden) to get answers.
Then when the answer wasn't what he wanted, instead of repenting, he succumbed to fear, plunging himself (literally) into his fate.
Then, we have the situation with Uzzah and the ark:
The ark was not carried properly (disobedience).
This demonstrated contempt for the words of the Lord and the glory due him.
He continually sought counsel from God.
He understood God was in control.
He recognized sin and repented of it.
He understood the name of God was to be exalted above all other things.
The glory of God was always the goal.
In looking through all these passages, I came to this conclusion:
God must be glorified and his name must be exalted.
How I choose to respond to that, determines my outcome.
It determines how I will act/respond in situations.
It determines what I will say.
It determines how I will pray.
It determines how I will treat others.
It determines how I will treat God.
These chapters show us David was different. David stood out from everyone else in stark contrast to the sin, the bloodshed, the contempt, the anger, the fear. Why?
Because David revered the name of God.
In every situation, God must allow for the glory of his name.
And, what would happen in our lives if we all lived this way?
Lived continually seeking God's counsel (instead of seeking it from people, social media, self help, and so on).
Lived with understanding God is in control (instead of in fear or complaining).
Lived recognizing our sins and repenting (instead of excusing!)
Lived knowing the name of God is to be exalted above all things (including myself!)
Lived with the goal of the glory of God above all else (instead of what I want).
This is the whole of Scripture. How we view God affects everything. We can view God as glorious, as our Father, as the exalted one, as our Redeemer.
Or we can view him with contempt. With fear. With taking over because we don't like how things are going.
I have been repeating over and over this phrase in my head from Psalm 138: "You have exalted above all things your name and your word."
I can't help but wonder if David wrote this Psalm after the ark experience:
"I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your
steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
On that day I called, you answered me;
my strength of soul you increased.
All the kings of the earth shall give you
thanks, O Lord,
for they have heard the words of your mouth,
and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
for great is the glory of the Lord.
For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly,
but the haughty he knows from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the
wrath of my enemies,
and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands."
What if we all had this goal? And, what if we all lived to accomplish this goal?
Namely, the glory of God and the exaltation of his name.
How different our lives would be. Our families. Our homes. Our relationships. Our churches. Our communities. Our nation.
"Speak to us, Lord. Show us areas of contempt, areas we need to change. Fuel in our hearts the need for your glory above all else. You must be exalted. You will be exalted. May we live carefully, on guard against the schemes of the devil. Keep watch over us, Lord. We must not live any other way. 'For great is the glory of the Lord'."
Song for mediation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEOrT6nx3Og