For its Bible study, my church is going through The Unbreakable Promise: God’s Covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David, With Michael Rydelnik. Last night, we did the first lesson about David.
What I appreciated most was the spiritual lessons that Rydelnik was mentioning on the DVD. First, Rydelnik was saying that David was more qualified than Saul to be king because David in challenging the Philistine Goliath was putting his regard for God’s reputation and honor above his own personal safety. The king of Israel was to be Israel’s champion, fighting her enemies, and Saul was not doing that when Goliath was taunting Israel. Saul was afraid, but David put his regard for God’s honor above his fear.
I like this lesson because it is about honoring someone greater than myself. Someone in the group, whom I call “Joe,” said that he did a search of “forty days” in the Bible, for forty days was the amount of time that Goliath was challenging Israel. Joe concluded that forty days often relate to testing: Jesus was tested in the wilderness for forty days, the spies in Numbers who brought back the report were gone for forty days, and Jonah predicted that Nineveh would be overthrown after forty days. According to Joe, God during this time was testing people or giving them an opportunity to look inward. In I Samuel 17, God was watching to see what Israel would do: would Saul step forward as Israel’s champion? If not, God would demonstrate that David would be the more suitable candidate for kingship.
A professor of mine once said that we should not look for deep meaning in biblical numbers, for they are probably tropes. Granted, I am not sure if forty days always means testing. When God flooded the earth for forty days and forty nights, what did that have to do with testing? But I do not want to take off the table the idea that numbers in the Bible may have some theological significance. I want to go more deeply into the Bible to get more profound concepts, not fewer.
Second, Rydelnik was saying on the DVD that David’s flight from Saul was an opportunity for David to learn lessons that he would need as king: lessons of leadership, of compassion, etc. David led men while he was on the run from Saul, and he had opportunities to show mercy to Saul. I like this lesson because it says that times of apparent exile can serve as opportunities for us to learn lessons, or to become prepared for the task ahead.
I was thinking about a sermon that Tim Keller gave about the David and Goliath story while I was listening to Rydelnik’s points. Rydelnik seemed to be mentioning spiritual lessons that we should apply, whereas Tim Keller made another point: that we should identify, not with David, but with the Israelites whose champion David was. Because David defeated Goliath as Israel’s representative, Israel could reap the blessings of security from Philistine rule. Similarly, Christ as our representative defeated sin and death on our behalf. I like this passive way of looking at spirituality, as leery as I am of Christological interpretations of the Hebrew Bible, and yet it does not have to be passive, necessarily (as Tim Keller would probably acknowledge). If God indeed brought us blessings, could that not motivate us to have an active faith: to be grateful rather than grumbling, to see people as beloved of God, etc.?
After the study, we were briefly discussing creationism. A couple of people in the group were talking about a radio segment that they enjoyed about God’s creation. It was about God’s animals and some of their strange, unique features that helped them to cope and to survive. They thought these features demonstrated divine design. The thing is, after watching the Bill Nye-Ken Ham debate on creation yesterday, I wonder if Ken Ham himself would attribute these animals to evolution, in some manner. Ham does not believe that millions of species were on the ark, but rather that millions of species descended from a mere thousands of kinds. In this scenario, even some of these strange animals that my friends were talking about came about through evolution, rather than as a result of God performing a special creation of each new specie that would come along. At least that is my impression: Ken Ham seemed to acknowledge microevolution.
I’ll stop here.