OT: 2 Sam. 15:23-16:23
Today's reading continued the themes of dysfunctionality and intrigue in the royal family.
I am still a bit confused of David's immediate and rather cowardly retreat from the capital. At first, I thought he must just be rolling over and letting Absalom have the throne. Again, the dichotomy b/t David-the-mighty-warrior, and David-the-man-who-runs-away is just fascinating. The only other time David has fled was with Saul, and it was b/c he didn't want to hurt the "Lord's anointed." Come to think of it, the two instances do have some similarities. In both cases, David was the true "Lord's anointed," and he knew it. However, in both cases, he just could not bring himself to attack an enemy whom he loved. Also, both of these cases stand in unique contrast to almost every other case, where David let his sword do the talking.
However, in both cases, even though David fled, he didn't roll over and die. In the first case, he remained a player on the scene until Saul died, and in today's reading, he sends spies back to Jerusalem in order to undermine Absalom's reign and to report any developments to David.
Also in this passage, we get the first installment of the Ziba story, which will eventually demonstrate yet another instance of David's bizarre mercy.
And lastly, we get the lovely picture of Absalom having sex with all of David's concubines in a rather public manner. What a piece of work. I also think it is interesting that the text notes that Ahithophel's advice was viewed as the word of God, even though it was Ahithophel who recommended this wonderful sleep-with-your-father's-concubines scheme. I'm not going to go back and look it up, but that just seems like it's against the Law.
Alright, now that I've recapped the action, let me explore something I find even more intriguing. In 15:30, the text says that David went up to the Mount of Olives, "weeping as he went." Of course, that location turned on a lightbulb in my head, since that is where Jesus spoke to his disciples right before his crucifixion. I also was amazed by David's response to Shimei, who cursed him and threw stones and dirt at him. On the one hand, I could honestly see Shimei's point. Shimei's main accusation was that David was "a man of blood" (16:7-8). Now, I'm not saying that what Shimei did was right (it wasn't), but I do know that Scripture has talked about how much God hates bloodshed, and so maybe Shimei is right that all this is happening as a kind of judgment, or discipline for David.
Even more than the truth of Shimei's words, I was struck by David's response. David allows this man to continue to hurl insults and to cast stones on him for a long period of time, driving David and all those around him to the point of exhaustion (14). Even though David had it in his power to strike Shimei down, he chose not to.
Here's where both the Mount of Olives and the treatment of Shimei came together for me: David is called a man after God's own heart. Lately, I have had some trouble seeing that b/c David is so flawed and confusing in his actions. The more I think about it, however, the more I see that what confuses me about David is what confuses me about God. David can be terribly bloody and violent. He can bring death and destruction to his enemies with a ferocity that stuns me. And at the same time, he can be bizarrely merciful. He can overlook sins, to the point where I am critical of him for doing so. I want him to retaliate against Saul, to punish Joab for killing Abner, to bring down the thunder on Amnon, to fight Absalom. I am confused by his turning the other cheek to Shimei, and by his later treatment of Ziba (I won't get ahead of myself, though). In short, David's mercy makes no sense to me. At times, it hardly seems just. Thus, I am confused by both David's wrath and his mercy, and I am especially confused at how they can both reside in the same person. Same with God. I am confused how the Being who wiped out the world in a flood, who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, who burnt Nadab and Abihu, and who struck down Uzzah could have put up with the judges, or stomached David's deceptive massacres. Plus, I have similar confusions about Jesus. Jesus was a man who verbally slapped the Pharisees time and again, who physically attacked the offering-sellers in the temple, who got cantankerous and testy with the crowd in Jerusalem...and also the man who touched the lepers and welcomed the children and pardoned people for sins they didn't even confess. The same Jesus who overturned tables let people mock him and spit on him and nail him to a cross. And it is that dichotomy of wrath v. mercy that is so baffling to me. I can see having one or the other, but not both. And I guess that that is mystery of God to me. It's the thing that I just can't quite wrap my head around.
So again, the confusion I have with David is exactly the same confusion that I have with God. Wow--maybe the description of David as "a man after God's own heart" is more apt than I thought. One crazy thing that I realized during this exploration is that, when it comes down to it, God's mercy is more baffling to me than His wrath. I understand why a perfect God would punish sinful man far more than I understand why He would pardon him. It's funny--all this time, I thought it was God's wrath with which I struggled. Now, I think it is more the mercy and grace.
But I'm sure glad that it exists and that God has extended such blessings to His people.
NT: John 18:25-19:22
In his time at the Mount of Olives, his weeping, and his toleration for abuse and scorn, David's actions mirrored the events leading up to Christ's crucifixion. In today's NT passage, Jesus endures the flogging, beating, and jeers that I thought of while reading about David and Shimei. Like David, Christ could have ended it at any time; like David, He chose instead to endure it, with the reasoning that it was from God.
I am always fascinated by Jesus' interaction with Pilate in John. Pilate's mild annoyance ("Am I a Jew?"), I get, but what is behind his other statements? When he says, "You are a king, then!" is he fascinated, or amused? When he asks, "What is truth?" is he apathetic or intrigued? I'm not sure; I just know that his conversation with Jesus convinced him that there was no reason for this man to die.
Whatever Pilate was feeling during that first conversation, he was not playing around when he came in for the second one. The wrath of the Jews against what he found out was the alleged "Son of God" was formidable enough to strike fear into him (19:7-8). His words to Jesus reflect an interest and a fearful frustration that was not there before. Jesus' words convince him to try to set him free, but his desire is not stronger than his political alliances. When the people's words pit Jesus against Caesar, Pilate finally hands him over to be crucified.
All in all, John's picture of Pilate is much more sympathetic than the one in the Synoptics.
Also, I remember from my Writings of the New Testament book that the location spoken of in verse 13 ("the judge's seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement") was initially thought to be a historical error by biblical scholars. Apparently, later archaeology has revealed that such a place did exist. John was right.
Psalm 119: 113-128
This psalm has shifted from explicit declarations of love for God's Word to condemnation of those who do not follow God's word. There is also the continued theme of the psalmist's personal struggles against his enemies.
Verse 10 praises kings, and verse 11 praises honesty in business dealings.