1. Today was a Sabbath, namely, the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, and so I did a weekly quiet time. I studied II Kings 25, which is the last chapter of the book.
I like how it ends on a note of hope: Evil-Merodach, the king of Babylon who succeeded Nebuchadnezzar, releases King Jehoiachin of Judah from prison, elevates Jehoiachin above the other captive kings, allows Jehoiachin to dine in his presence, and gives him a regular allowance. If the Deuteronomistic History was composed in exile, then it seems to be searching for some glimmer of hope amidst dark circumstances. The Deuteronomist doesn’t draw sweeping conclusions from Evil-Merodach’s elevation of Jehoiachin (“Oh, the exile is coming to a close!”). He just mentions it. But why does he mention it? I think it’s because he deems it significant: he wonders if its an indication that God hasn’t given up on his people.
I’m not big on getting my hopes up, for that leads me to disappointment. I’ve had times in my life when I’ve interpreted good things in my life as a sign that God was leading me in a certain direction, only to find myself, well, not where I was expecting God to lead me! But I don’t think it’s wrong for me to look at a situation that appears to be hopeful and to think, “Maybe, just maybe.” But I also have to be willing to cope with a “maybe not.”
Where will I go next in my weekly quiet time? Answer: the Book of Ecclesiastes! I’m curious about how faith communities that believe in an afterlife cope with a book that appears to deny an afterlife. Well, many of them reinterpret the book’s message to be consistent with an afterlife! But how do they interact with the passages in Ecclesiastes that contradict that? That’s one question that will be swimming through my mind as I study the Book of Ecclesiastes and its interpreters!
2. I was expecting to finish Randall Short’s The Surprising Election and Confirmation of King David today, but that did not happen! I’ll probably get it done tonight, though.
In my reading today, Randall points out times in the narrative where Saul calls David his son, and he also notes that Saul rarely refers to Jonathan as his son, nor does Jonathan call Saul his father all that often. When they do so, the context is usually negative.
I’m not entirely sure what Randall’s point is here, but it may have to do with the narrative’s attempt to uphold David’s right to the throne. Randall says that David takes Jonathan’s place as the one who fights the battles of the LORD. In a sense, David is like a son of Saul, the one who will obviously become Saul’s heir and successor. Randall also notes passages in which David is said to perform kingly duties even before he becomes king, in a time when he’s on the run from Saul! David fights the LORD’s battles and leads people, even then.
That reminds me of a book I read at Harvard Divinity School, Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak. Palmer said that we can tell what our destiny will be—or what our vocation should be—by looking at what we’ve enjoyed doing throughout our lives. He, for example, liked to write as a child, and he grew up to become a writer. There’s a connection between where we are and where God is taking us. At the same time, if you’re in a bleak situation, my opinion (for what it’s worth) is that you shouldn’t despair, for God can put you in situations to discover and develop your talents.
Randall also discussed the point that Samuel needed to anoint David in secrecy, for he didn’t want to get in trouble with Saul. That may be true in the narrative. At the same time, Samuel did confront Saul and declare that God had rejected Saul from being king, so was Samuel really that afraid of Saul? But telling Saul something is one thing. Actually going out and anointing another king is something else!
As I’ve told my readers before, I’ve done “The Church of James Pate’s Brain” to help me fall asleep. Most of the time, I fantasize about having a church radio program (or, actually, a station) in which I preach about God’s love and mercy. But I’ve tried to do some episodes in which I speak to Bible times. In some cases, I just pretend that radios existed back then and that ancient Israelites were listening to them! But that’s too unrealistic, and so I imagine myself setting up proclamation sessions in the open air, preaching to ancient Israelites—like a tent revival. When I was on the Saul and David times, I was preaching in favor of David. Then it hit me: had I really done that, I probably would have lost my life, for I would have been proclaiming treason against King Saul—at least in the eyes of Saul and his sympathizers!