August 3, 2016
Republicans vs. Democrats, the employed vs. the unemployed, migrants vs. residents, Christians, Jews, Muslims, strangers. We seem to live in a world of personal opinions and divisiveness, so what better time than now to learn about what makes a good ruler and what makes sound government and laws.
David in the Bible was called the shepherd-king, and his reign provides insights about bringing a divided country together. He united the kingdoms of Israel in the North and Judah in the South, and ruled for 40 years from 1010-970 BCE. David wrote many of our psalms, the prayer-book of our Old Testament. You can feel his constant dependence on the guidance of God, his shepherd, when you read his psalms in correlation with the turbulent history of his life. You’ll notice in our readings that the psalms with superscriptions are interspersed with those events in his life from I and II Samuel. Can you spot some of the qualities which made David a good leader?
Our readings begin with David’s escape from the envious King Saul. During this period, David spent a lot of his time hiding in caves which isn’t how I pictured the heroic David who ran toward the enemy Goliath. But after preparing these readings, I realized that these caves represented closet prayer times for David, who did not want to kill King Saul, the Lord’s anointed. These caves provided a sanctuary for David to compose many of his psalms. Here is a favorite quote about prayer times:
“We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. . . . Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord.” (Devotional Classics of C. H. Spurgeon)
In today’s readings, when David was hungry, he ate the shewbread, thus identifying himself with the divine. No one could take away his victory, so he reclaimed Goliath’s sword. It seemed that his actions were irreverent toward God and country, but David’s holiness and reverence was toward Life, not toward a symbol. That word “reverent” reminded me of the Scout Law: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” Being reverent in the wilderness was definitely a quality that David had to practice!
Recently I had a FaceBook posting: “Forgiveness is the fragrance that flowers give when they are crushed.” That is what came to mind today when I read this line of the Lord’s Prayer with Mrs. Eddy’s interpretation: “Give us this day our daily bread; Give us grace for to-day; feed the famished affections” (Science and Health, p. 17). Certainly David’s psalms show how he was feeling crushed, yet beyond the broken bread/body symbol lies the grace. David had the Life and the Truth (the bread), and the Love (grace).
I’ve noticed that artists sometimes use femininity and youth to show the Comforter in Bible figures, so I’ve included a link to an interesting sculpture out of many in Florence, Italy, where David has Goliath’s head under his foot. Those sculptures remind me of the first verses of that enigmatic Psalm 110:
The word of God to my Lord:
“Sit alongside me here on my throne
until I make your enemies a stool for your feet.”
You were forged a strong scepter by God of Zion;
now rule, though surrounded by enemies! (The Message Ps. 110:1, 2)
Your people shall be volunteers
In the day of Your power;
In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning,
You have the dew of Your youth. (New King James Version Ps. 110:3)