Reading from Daily NRSV: 1 Samuel 16:1—24:22
The past few days I have been reading from the Book of 1 Samuel, looking into the lives of the Kings Saul and David. Each time I read from these narrative accounts I come away with an equal part of encouragement and “dis—ease.”
All through these ancient stories, I read of many of the men and women in the Bible showing equal parts of “faithful” and “faulty.” There are countless stories depicting deep love of God and then it seems like there comes the counterbalance of fleshly foible revealing the frailty of their humanity (i.e., not one of them lived perfect lives).
“The LORD does not see as mortals see: they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:7 NRsV
King David is especially notable in this sense, described as a man after God’s heart and arguably one of God’s favorites…and not perfect by a looooong shot. He lied, he stole, he cheated, he adulterated, he murdered, he showed poor parenting skills…and these are just off the top of my head, but even in the midst of these moral failures God loved him, favored him, and blessed him immensely. This is one major example of why I come away from these readings encouraged. It is also for the same reason I come away from this with a heavy conviction of “dis-ease.”
How often am I tempted to redefine obedience so that I am not doing what God requires but what I desire instead?
The reason I feel so uncomfortable with their fleshly failures is not that I think we should live morally perfect lives…even with the Holy Spirit upon or within us, (David had the Holy Spirit upon him and still committed epic failures). No, the reason is much more vainly motivated than that… I feel disturbed and dis-eased because I realize how easy it is for me to justify and excuse my failures and weaknesses in light of God’s forgiving nature toward me and Christ-imputed righteousness to me. This is pretty sobering to think about when I consider that “God looks upon the heart…” What does my heart really look like, when I redefine obedience to fit my desires? Am I really living to deny self, so I might conform fully to the image of Christ? Or, do I slack off from that transformation of character and nature, assuming that God forgives my frailty? I mean… “He knows we are dust” Right?
I don’t particularly like this tension I live in, but I think it is healthy for my soul. These questions and my honest answers keep my running on my knees to the Cross of Christ feeling very poor in spirit. I want to be righteous for the sake of my God, Jesus. I do want to live a morally perfect and Christ-like virtuous life; I do. I think the balance is in setting the bar for my goal as the life Jesus lived. I don’t think I should be satisfied or comfortable with my weaknesses and failures, but I don’t think they should paralyze me either. God the Holy Spirit is with me and has empowered me to succeed and live a life that reflects Christ in me; I know this and should let this be the guiding principle for how I go about my daily living.
I want to live like and leave the legacy of the person the psalmist writes about in Psalm 92.
“The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap, showing that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” –Psalm 92:12-15
A Prayer of Psalms
O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me. I call out to you, O LORD, with all my heart… answer me, O LORD, and I will obey your decrees. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. I call out to you; save me and I will keep your statutes, I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. Come, Creator Spirit, Paraclete, gift of God most high, visit the souls of your people, and fill with supernal grace the hearts which you created. Amen.