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David’s Rescue: A Cautionary Tale

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We often teach or preach based on a single passage, parable, or even chapter of scripture.  But I LOVE hearing the voice of David Suchet (who played Hercule Poirot for 25 years of drama) read the Holy Bible in the NIV-UK version, and found myself listening to the Book of 1 Samuel as Mr. Suchet narrated.

In Chapter 24 we see King Saul, maddened with jealousy and fear, seeking the life of David. While David and his men hide in a cave stronghold, Saul (leading his men) enters the cave to answer a call of nature, and David has his perfect opportunity to dispatch this enemy. He refrains, not to bloody his hands in revenge against the Lord’s anointed king. To hear the encounter and its conclusion (which takes 3 minutes and 48 seconds) click RIGHT HERE.

Normally, teaching ends right there and we break until another week, or lesson, or sermon, or whatever. (After all… the chapter is ended… go in peace… etc.) But as one blessed teacher of mine was always diligent to point out… “Scripture itself” didn’t come with chapter divisions. The next chapter “looks like” it takes up a whole new topic as David deals with some new characters Nabal and Abigail.

I was just letting Mr. Suchet transport me without interruption, and for the first time I saw this really cool thing I thought I’d share.

David is prudently yet living in the “field” with his forces, as King Saul wavers between contrition and homicidal fury. In the past, David has done good things for Nabal, protecting his staff and his goods in the wilderness, preserving them from any loss. He sends messengers with blessings and courteous words, and asks for such provisions as Nabal might spare for David and his troops.

Nabal, both named and acting the fool by nature, not only refuses succor, but rebuffs the messengers with deep insults and contempt for David. David seems cut to the quick, and resolves to redeem his honor and pride by killing every male of Nabal’s holdings. Fortunately, Nabal’s servants have overheard the initial insulting encounter, report all this to Abigail the mistress of the household, Nabal’s wife, who has provisions prepared and travels to David with words of service and apology, along with praise for the God of Israel and David as His servant.

To hear the entirety of THIS part of the story, take 7 minutes 50 seconds and hear Mr. Suchet narrate RIGHT HERE.

Generally, this also is taught as a “distinct chapter”, a “unit”, and we focus on the wisdom of Abigail, the foolishness and haughtiness of Nabal, on God’s wrath and judgment of Nabal, and the “everyone lived happily ever after” of the outcomes. All well, true, and good as far as it goes.

But this time, I was arrested by David’s gratitude towards Abigail for preventing his sin against Nabal’s household. She calmed his wounded pride and thirst for revenge, and he very distinctly thanked her for that. (I wonder if it was this, that attracted him to ask her hand in marriage when she was widowed.) But his words here are…

‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me.  May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands.’ [verses 32-33]

And later…

‘Praise be to the Lord, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.’ [verse 39]

What struck me today was something I’d never seen before, and it only hit me because of the short time between the two narratives… but…

Isn’t it interesting how nobly David resists any temptation to avenge himself on King Saul, for his contempt, his insults, and his murderous pursuit, citing his refusal to have blood on his hands of the Lord’s anointed? And yet how soon thereafter David is roused to a murderous rage over the ill-chosen (all right, the “stupid”) words of a fool? He had cared for all those workmen in the wilderness, and they apparently loved and respected him (for it was they who went to Ms. Abigail)… and yet by this simple prick of his ego, this slight to his accomplishments, dignity, and graciousness, he prepares to slaughter who knows how many, to vent his wrath.

Rightly, he praises God and Abigail for preventing him from so great a sin, and life carries on.

But it struck me, and I wanted to share with you, Gentle Reader… how often we can sense a “large” spiritual challenge to our grace, and overcome it… only to fall to some niggling pettifogging prick to pride, ego, or dignity.

If David had killed the men of Nabel’s household, he’d have slain the very men who admired him and went to Abigail. Would such murder have been as great a sin as the regicide of King Saul? With “sin” and “God” is there such a question as “how big”?

This struck me, for myself, as a cautionary tale. It sometimes seems much easier to avoid the “big sins” in my life, only to fall so frequently to the “fleas” that seem able to niggle in past the plates of my armor. The Enemy doesn’t give up on temptation after one unsuccessful attempt, and I’ve long learned that “adrenalin is the Enemy’s favorite drug of choice”. If I can be made impatient or aggravated, if my pride or dignity can be pricked and offended, I can reach a murderous anger far more easily than I care to admit. (Cf. Matthew 5:21-22)

Anyway, just a cool thing I’ve never seen before, nor heard taught or preached… Thought you might find it interesting as well, Gentle Reader. Grace to you… Pray for me always!

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Gathering Together

jerusalem ruins“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” [Matthew 23:37-39]

When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches,
For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me. [Psalm 63:6-8]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

GrebesI love nature programming on Discovery Channel or PBS. Some shows are more interesting than others. Shark Week grabs my interest. Generally speaking Bird Watching does not.

But one evening long ago I happened across a program on the flora and fauna of the Holy Land. And for some reason, my attention was captured by an aquatic fowl called the “Grebe“.

Contrary to the old saw… The Grebe looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and swims like a duck… but honest… it’s not a duck. It’s a Grebe. There are 5 different kinds in Israel, and beyond what I’m about to say, I can’t remember much about them. But here is what I found fascinating about the Grebe in Galilee…

Like most water fowl, Grebes nest on shore quite near the water’s edge. Adults cover their eggs with grasses, and spend most of their time in the water. They can dive for fish, and are much more comfortable in the water than on land. When their chicks hatch, they can swim almost immediately, and will follow their mother hither and yon. All this sounds like a duck so far, right? But here’s what’s different and propelled me into some moments of deep worship.

When duck chicks are threatened, as by a fox or other predator, they will head into the water and swim away, following their mother in a line. This is good… but still leaves them exposed individually, a bit vulnerable.

grebe 2But when a mother Grebe sees danger on shore, she races to her chicks and backs up to them, dipping her tail to make a ramp onto her back. Her chicks “climb aboard” her body itself, and she tucks their little bodies under her wings. She sails out to deep water like a viking ship, her offspring’s heads bobbing above the edge of her wings, as they ride as safe and secure as if buckled into a child seat.

The Grebe flees from danger at the full-blown speed of the adult, not the baby paddling of newborn ducklings. The Grebe maneuvers with the skill of the canny mother, not the naive duckling. And the protective Grebe mother moves them quickly out into deep water, far from the shallows of ducklings.

As I watched this program, I found myself hearing Psalm 63:7 echoing in my mind. In fact, there was a worship song I used to sing that contained the verse “Beneath the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice, to find a dwelling place secure”. (Blest Be the Lord). I thought of King David as a boy shepherd. I wondered how many times he had watched the Grebe save her chicks from a slinking cat, a slithering snake, or a sly fox. I could imagine him seeing the Grebe as a model of safety for her offspring, and this image returning to him years later as he wrote his praises to God for His protection and care.

Whenever I see Jesus speak of gathering His children as chicks… to this day, I never envision a chicken (as do most of my friends) covering her chicks in the barnyard with her flapping wings. I still see the Grebe, sailing serenely out to safety as she clamps them firmly within the hollow of her breasts.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Beneath the shadow of His wings we can rejoice. We have a dwelling place secure!

 

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