Monday, July 20, 2009

"God-Impacted Life: Essential Work"

Scripture Readings: 1 Samuel 16:14-23; John 9:1-7

When I was a kid, I loved playing checkers, and I loved to win. Part of the strategy for winning, at checkers, is to get as many of your pieces through your enemy’s territory to the other end of the board, in order to make them kings. You make it across, and you say, “King me!” and your opponent puts one of the pieces you lost or sacrificed on top of the victorious one, and you try to do that over and over again. I loved saying, “King me! King me! King me!”

David never gave the impression of being someone who went around saying, “King me! King me!” He was just a kid when the old prophet Samuel anointed him as king, to replace King Saul who would not listen to God, or trust God. And the strange thing was that, when Samuel anointed David, the word “king” was never used. So maybe it wasn’t strange that David never talked about being a king during those early years.

David never acted like someone who always seemed like he wanted to say, “King me! King me! King me!” David never seems to have tried to be a king, not even on the day when the tribe of Judah anointed him as king, at Hebron, after Saul died. (2 Samuel 2:4) In the years after he became king, it was the people around David who had to remind him that he was the king and that he needed to assert his kingship.

When the boy David was first anointed king by Samuel, he went back to herding sheep. All David was, was the eighth son of his family; the spare boy. Nothing seemed to change. If he had a kingdom to rule, it was only the kingdom of the sheep.

Even when David came out into the open, for the first time, and killed the giant Goliath, he still went back to the sheep. He was still only a kid. His brothers didn’t think of him as a man at all. (1 Samuel 17:28) Nothing changed for David. If he ruled a kingdom, it was only the kingdom of the sheep, but he ruled that kingdom very well.

Time passed. David continued to grow; and get stronger and tougher. He became what other people could at last recognize as a man of war (1 Samuel 16:18); and I think it would have looked like this. In those days, every village or town needed to defend itself against raiders from the cities of the Philistines on the coast, or raiders from the desert tribes. Every able-bodied male of the village took part in this defense.

Every boy practiced for this in ways that were more like playing games. First he played with slings, then with blunt arrows and spears, and maybe short wooden swords (but real swords were weapons for the rich or well funded).

In time, the boys were judged to have become young men, and so they practiced in earnest. They knew that they were no longer playing games, and they practiced with real weapons. This work was as important as any other work they did.

When the raiders and marauders went to work on the Israelites, they swept from village to village. Some villages were easy pickings. They just handed over their food, and livestock, and jewelry, and maybe their daughters too. Some villages put up a fight before they surrendered. And some villages fought, and could not be defeated.

The raiders and marauders would test each village, and size it up for its strengths and weaknesses. Their experience with each village became a part of their strategy for future raids. Every village had its reputation for good or bad.

Bethlehem proved to have men living in it who could truly be called “men of war.” The sons of Jesse were among these. And David became one of them too; one of the men of war.

The other villages must have envied Bethlehem for the quality of its militia, and admired it greatly. They talked about those sons of Jesse, and especially his youngest son, David.

When King Saul needed fighters, or supplies, or other resources, he would send to the villages, and the villagers would come and bring what he asked. There was a continual coming and going between the villages and the castle of Saul at Gibeah.

Perhaps an elder from one of the neighboring villages near Bethlehem was present when Saul was trying to solve a problem he had. Saul found himself at the mercy of an inner crisis that often overwhelmed him. It was a deep, frightening, spiritual struggle, a dark emotional torment. It made him unable to function. It made him unsafe.

Whatever threatened the heart and mind of the king threatened the whole kingdom. How might the king find a cure? How might the king find relief from this dangerous problem?

And so Saul heard about David. David sang and played the harp. Music was a gift from God. Music was powerful, and often healing. It could be strong medicine. And, more than that, David was a valuable man of war. Perhaps David could help, and so the king sent for him.

Now, if you read ahead, you will see that in the next chapter David is a boy again. The story seems to take us backward. But here we see an almost grownup David playing the harp and singing for Saul. This is important. This is the first picture that the Bible gives us of David as the real king.

In this picture we have two kings in one throne room. One king wears the crown. He does his royal work with that crown. The other king plays the harp. He does his royal work with that harp.

The king with the crown is not doing his work very well. He cannot rule himself. The king with the harp is successfully ruling over the king with the crown: bringing that king health, and bringing the kingdom safety. He is doing his work well.

Saul is living the God-avoiding life. David is living the God-impacted life. The Spirit of God has departed from Saul, as we read. (1 Samuel 16:14) But the Spirit of the Lord is living in David. (1 Samuel 16:13) David has received what Saul has lost. Saul is running on empty, and David is running on full.

In a way, Saul is able it do the royal work of kings because David is the one making it possible. David is the one doing the truly essential work, God’s work, in that throne-room.

Without either of them knowing it, David is the real king in that room. It was the presence of the Holy Spirit in David that makes this possible.

Jesus came to make it possible for us to do the really essential work, God’s work, the royal work, in this world. In the Gospel of John, Jesus used the blind man to tell his disciples about this work.

The disciples saw a man who had been blind all his life, and they asked Jesus why this had happened. Jesus said, “This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day we must do the work of him who sent me.” (John 9:1-4)

In this case, God’s work was to make a blind person see. In a larger sense, God’s work is to see a need and fill it, to see a wrong and right it, to see a chaos and bring order to it, to see hurt and bring comfort, to see weariness and bring strength, to see darkness and bring the light.

This is God’s royal work of creation. It is also the work that God did when he came down from heaven and lived, for our sake, as a human being, in Jesus, and gave himself on the cross for our forgiveness and to make us a new creation. This is God’s work as the real king. This is royal work.

Royal work is what Saul was anointed to do as king and failed to do, because he saw protecting himself and his position as more important than the work that God had given him to do. Royal work is what David was anointed to do as king. And he succeeded at doing it whenever he saw it as God’s work first and foremost
Jesus included us with his disciples when he said, “We must do the work of him who sent me.” In the second chapter of Genesis, in the creation, the Lord took mud and made life. In the Gospel of John, the Lord took mud and made healing, and eye-sight; and he brought the blind man light. “Let there be light!” God’s work is the work of being life-giving and life-saving.

This is king’s work. This is royal work. Saul worked and brought anger, and doubt, and despair. David did his work and brought calm, and faith, and patient hope. David’s royal work meant walking into the life of Saul the mess, and using his gifts for healing. Jesus entered the mess of this world with his plan to give us a new life, and set us free through the cross and the resurrection.

Our royal work is to enter into messes that confront us with the strength that comes from the Spirit of the Lord who is with us. It is really only Christ’s work, and we are anointed for this work as David was.

He did his work wherever he went, whether he wore a crown or not: and, so do we. We do the work we are anointed to do in Christ, wherever we go; whatever conditions and opportunities we have.

We have this royal work to make things work, to mend what is broken, to right what is wrong; to bring order to chaos and peace to conflict. This is the essential work that God wants done. This is the essential work at home and in our families, among our neighbors, in our communities, in our livelihood, in our church, and in this world that God has given us.

The royal work that the Lord gives us does not depend on how visible we are, or how much we own. The royal work that the Lord gives us has nothing to do with paychecks, or profits, or time-clocks, or calendars.

The royal work that the Lord gives us to do comes from the royal work he does within us. His royal work is a love that empowers us and makes us new creations every morning.

David’s first royal work was music; and the job of putting that music into Saul’s heart and mind. The Lord’s royal work is to put his own music, the music of his life, into us so we can share it with others.

No comments:

Post a Comment