Lecture 16: Three Kings
Course: Old Testament Survey
Lecture: Three Kings
Interestingly, I think this is as good a time as any to talk about it, you will notice that at two or three places a comment is made David is "a man after my own heart," says God. We might easily say, "How can this be so? He is a murderer, he is an adulterer, he is a disaster as a parent and as a husband." He is very unpopular for large blocks of his reign. I think, on balance, most scholars have felt, though there is a little bit of reconstruction guessing involved, you do not have all the details about every year of David’s reign, that he was probably, mainly unpopular. A little like the Truman administration. You know if you study the Truman administration he had pretty low popularity. It was not a time that most people said, "Harry Truman, oh boy, are we glad to have him in the White House." Nevertheless he did some pretty significant and influential things but was not a hugely popular president. David was something like that. If they had popularity poles in his day, David would be down in low numbers and down in single digits at certain points I am sure. So how can he be called a man after his own heart? How can this possibly be? I think the answer is that the meaning of this is not to be after God’s own heart you have got to be a model person. That is not what it means. What David has got, no matter how his behavior is, no matter how horrible his sin, he has always got absolute, solid, and I would say especially, exclusive trust/faith in the true God. That is what really makes him who he is. That is the thing about David.
A. Now I would like to draw a contrast. I would like to point out something that can easily, easily, easily be missed in reading these materials because of the fact that it is stated so simply and directly that you, the reader in English, often really do not see it. You are not likely to catch it very easily. I refer you to 2 Samuel 2:8. The title in the NIV says, "War Between the Houses of David and Saul," that is really true. There was a real rivalry between the royal families of Saul and David. Saul actual royal family--David potential. "Abner son of Ner, he is the commander of Saul’s army, took Ish-Bosheth, son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim." That is just a big deal and they made him king over there and so on. This guy's name is Ish-Bosheth. Ish means "man" in Hebrew and Bosheth means "shame." Put together they mean "man of shame." This guy is called man of shame. Why? Who would name a child man of shame? The answer is not Saul. He did not name him man of shame. How do we know?
B. In Chronicles he is called Ish-Baal, man of Baal. Do you know who Baal is? Baal is that idol, that weather god, that Canaanite deity that so many Israelites got to worship. Indeed when we come later to 1 Kings 18 in the story of Elijah we will observe that God tells Elijah (it is actually 1 Kings 19 where he says this) he says, "I still have 7,000 people in Israel who have not bowed the knee to Baal or kissed him," meaning of course, all the others have. The vast majority of Israelites worshipping Baal. What do we observe then? I am giving you a very quick bit of evidence. There is much more. I am giving you just an outline of it. To the extent that you can trust me, fine. If you cannot, be skeptical and study it for yourself. Here is what you will find. You will find that this concept was so horrid, the idea that the first king of Israel named his son Man of Baal, meaning of course, Saul was worshipping Baal along with Yahweh that the scribes who handled the books of Samuel substituted the word Bosheth. This is a phenomenon that is called in Hebrew a tiqqune sopherim, a correction of scribes. There are about two dozen of them in the whole Hebrew Bible and they mark these. These are marked in the Hebrew Bible by the rabbis. The tradition understood it that people hated so much in the prophets, now when it is in the writings in Chronicles it is a little different, they just let it go, they did not push the thing there. But they hated so much in these prophets to have anybody grow up in Judaism and read that the son of this guy was named Ish-Baal, son of Baal that they actually just changed it so that nobody could miss the fact this was bad. What it means though is that Saul was a syncretist. I think I have used that word before but just in case it slipped by I just want you to be sure you understand what we are talking about here. Syncretism is the conjoining of beliefs. It is where you say, "Yes, I believe in Yahweh and yes I believe in Baal." You put them together even when they should not be put together you do it. Almost everybody in the ancient world was a syncretist. People were happy to believe in more gods and goddesses. If they learned about a new god or goddess they would say, "Great, I will bear it in mind." It is like learning about, yet another doctor on your medical plan. "I might need him or her so it is good I have the list." Saul was a syncretist. Was he probably mostly worshipping Yahweh most of the time, probably was but he was hedging his bets by also keeping his hand in Baal worship as well even then naming one of his children that way to demonstrate his loyalty. That is on one side of David--the early side of David.
Then what about his successor Solomon? For that we will leap ahead to 1 Kings 11 and begin to read, "Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter--Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, 'You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.' Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love." Verse 4, "As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God as the heart of David his father had been." There it is just really clear what is implied by the idea, "A man after God’s own heart." So Solomon also became a syncretist. This was powerful, it was hard to resist. The attractions of idolatry were enormous. He followed, therefore, Ashtoreth the Sidonian god, Molech the Ammonite god. Built various shrines for them as verses 7 and 8 say, offered sacrifice to their gods. This caused, actually, the breakup of the kingdom. God was not going to reward that with having Solomon go to the grave with the confidence that all his successors would take over the nation and have a wonderful united and powerful nation. No. When the people are supporting this and letting the king do it they also are complicit. They also are involved. On either side of David is syncretism--Saul does it, Solomon does it. David is smack-dab in the middle, he is getting himself in every kind of trouble. If he were today he would probably would be experimenting with marijuana and getting drunk and everything else you could think of and divorced and remarried fourteen times in a mess, but there is never any doubt in his mind who the only God is and who the true God is and that you need to tell him, "Look I have no hope except in you." That is such a great message that if you preach it and teach it your people are going to be helped by that. You are going to find that as you do pastoral counseling that large numbers of people who look wonderful on the outside and are just amazingly skillful have disastrous family lives. It is very sad. Because it is hard to have a good family life. It does not always work. It is not always natural. So they will come to you in counseling and people that you thought were on top of the world, nicest couple and so on, and they will start talking about their relationship and you will say, "Aw, this is awful." You will have people come to you and confess the kinds of sins that they are doing and you will say, "This is unbelievable." You will discover enmities in families even when the best of intentions are there. You can have the finest parents and certain kids will say, "My parents are boring, I’m out of here." Or much worse than that. Enmity can occur in all kinds of ways and problems. Those people, then, will be put off and will not feel a part of God’s plan of redemption if all you are saying is to please God you have got to be really nice. That is a wrong message to send. You should be really nice and if you are it will please God but it is not the sufficient or necessary thing to please God. To please God is to trust in Him and say, "You’re my only hope. When I look at the cross and see that Jesus died for me, that is it, my only hope, that is all I’ve got." That is what people need to hear because then the sinners will be able to say, "Hey, maybe there is something for me. I might be able to do something for the Lord. If that crud, David, whom even I can find fault with, was a man that God used and called after his own heart. Maybe I could do it. I would never have thought that. I thought you had to be at least as nice as Charlton Heston in the Ten Commandments to be able to do anything significant for God. People are living with this impression. They are living with the impression that you have got to be a saint of some kind to really accomplish something and we sometimes give that impression. People should know they can be used by God if they have absolutely nothing to commend them but everything to condemn them except for the fact that they have placed their faith in Christ. Boy, if they have got that, wham, can things begin to happen. I think David’s life is wonderful for that. Wonderful to show what is it that makes a person after God’s own heart. Definitely when you preach these bring out Saul’s syncretism, bring out Solomon, sandwich David in there, bring out all the flaws of David that say, "But why?," and point that out and I think you will have made a point that will be of enormous help to many people.
I have given you some sense of overview and I realize that it is very broad scale but I would like to talk about some of the particulars that one comes across. I just think it is interesting to be sure that we know what we are dealing with in 1 Samuel 1 where it says that Hannah wanted to dedicate her son to the Lord. Can you get that concept in the story of how she brings Samuel up to the tabernacle there at Shiloh and she says, "I will present him before the Lord and he will live there always." She does this and that is a lot of what chapter 1 is about. It is a story of Samuel’s birth and his mother is so grateful that she presents him to the Lord. What she is doing is not redeeming him. That is what I want you to catch. What would she normally have done? What would the vast majority of people have done with every child born to them? The answer is they would have followed Leviticus 26 and they would have redeemed them. So here is the basic thing, here is some references to it in that law but I am just going to summarize what went on in Ancient Israel. God said to the people every firstborn is mine. It does not matter what it is. Anything you own, the first of your crops, the first of your children, the first of your animals, all mine. But did God then really want to take the firstborn? He says no. I do take the firstborn of goat kids and lambs. I do take the firstborn of all crops, so anything that is normal, edible stuff, yes. God would not take the firstborn of a pig, you were not supposed to raise them anyway, but that is an unclean animal, he would not take the firstborn of an unclean animal. He specifically says, "I won’t take the firstborn of a donkey. Don’t try to bring it into the temple." Did he want people actually to give up their children to him? No, that should be very exceptional, very exceptional. What do you do? You have to buy them back, you trade something for their life and that trade is a payment and that is what redemption means. You buy something back. In theory every family would bring its firstborn to the temple or tabernacle and say, "Here you are God, it is yours, you said so." But in actual fact, God says, "No, I don’t want any child unless you want this child to grow up and be one of my priests or Levites or something, or to work here in the temple. So, therefore, what I am saying to you is, instead give me a payment. I will technically let you buy back your firstborn. That is the concept of redemption. It gets extended to a number of situations. Even the taking of censuses because it is such a great risk involved. We will talk about that if we get a chance tonight but buying back is a big theme. Did God have to do this? No, He did not. Think of the big top level, think of the meta-narrative, the top-level story in which the concept of redemption is going to be very basic to God’s whole plan of dealing with human history. What is God going to do with us who are in deep trouble? The answer is he will buy us back. What will he pay? A perfect substitute payment and that will be one of us makes the payment with his own life for all of us and that one of us is actually God as well as human so his infinity as God makes the substitution of infinite application, that is, all who trust in him can equally well be substituted for. It is a wonderful thing. You make the payment in kind but the New Testament uses the language of redemption much more than it uses the language of, say, being born again. The language being born again is mainly in John 3 but the language of redemption that is in a lot of places. So it is a very big theme. What God is doing in a story like this, if you preach on 1 Samuel or lead a Bible study on it, be sure to bring that out. This is a way of helping people to get the concept of redemption and what Hannah does, which is very special, is not to redeem him. He then does go and becomes technically, kind of, God’s child there in God’s house. That is the way it works. That is just a simple fact, but I thought I would point it out here in a place where at the very beginning of our material we come across it. This passage from Numbers 18, by the way, also addresses the same sort of thing. "Every devoted thing is yours but everything that opens the womb that is offered to the Lord shall be yours, nevertheless the first born you shall not redeem. The firstling of unclean beasts you shall not redeem." This stated now to Aaron as the leader of the temple. It all comes into the temple, belongs there as Aaron represents God then the redemption price is set, high enough that it is a bit of a sacrifice but not so high that it is an equivalent of a 39.6% tax bracket.
V. Covenant Renewal Speech
A. We also have in 1 Samuel 12 a pretty interesting covenant renewal speech so that that chapter kind of partakes of the category, covenant renewal, in a way that many others do. It is a farewell speech. Samuel gets all the people gathered around. He says, "Look, I have done these things and I have been fair and square and tried to be honorable." Then look what he does. In verse 6 he starts telling a story. "The Lord appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your forefathers up, Jacob and so on. Then he talks about the days of the judges and what happened and then the Lord sent Jerubbaal, that is Gideon, who also was a syncretist by the way and so on. He finally mentions his own name in the third person, "and Samuel," that is verse 11 of 1 Samuel 12. He goes on and describes the whole story.
1. If you think about it that is a covenant preamble and prologue review. That is classic preamble, prologue review; going over the story of how we got to this place.
2. Then, you have the stipulations. Verse 14, "If you fear the Lord, serve him, obey him, don’t rebel against his commands. Good. But if you don’t obey, his hand will be against you as it was against your fathers." There you have the stipulations summarized. Obey his covenant.
3. And the curses and blessings--that is the sanctions summarized. Good if you obey, big trouble if you do not. So it has got those elements as well. So we have preamble, prologue, stipulations, sanctions.
4. Then he says, "Look what’s happening, look how it is going and all these things. You’ve got to serve the king." Verse 20, "Turn to the Lord, don’t turn away from him but turn to him. Serve the Lord with all your heart, don’t turn after useless idols. Verse 24, "Be sure to fear the Lord, serve him with all your heart, consider what great things he has done for you." That consider is not quite a document clause but it is the virtual equivalent. In other words, think it through, pay attention to the covenant, what it says. That is like saying, "Read the document again."
5. He does not have in here, specifically, a list of witnesses like heaven and earth or something, but what he does imply is that the Lord is a constant witness to them and furthermore he is saying, "Look, as I come to the end of my life, I am your witness. I am telling you what the story is." In one way or another, sometimes delicately or implicitly, other times very obviously, you have covenant renewal here.
B. This is one of many such speeches. Here is just a listing. I do not think there is any question on the exam that says, "List a bunch of covenant renewal speeches," but if you were asked, "Give a special feature of 1 or 2 Samuel." And you could say, "Well, among other things it has one of the big covenant renewal speeches." That would be a very fine contribution; very good answer. But there are lots of them.
1. Ex 20 - Lev 26, Num: Obviously, the first covenant.
2. Deut: Deuteronomy has it.
3. Joshua 24: We talked about that before.
4. 1 Kgs 8: Here is another one. We are going to see one in Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple.
5. 2 Kgs 28: Josiah is going to give a beauty in 2 Kings 23.
6. 2 Chr 15: Asa gives a wonderful one, otherwise rather obscure king.
7. Ezra 9, 10: Ezra gives a gem.
8. Neh 8-10: Nehemiah and Ezra lead in one with a lot of covenant elements in it as well. Covenant renewal is a big thing.
C. What about the New Covenant? When do we do covenant renewal? The Lord’s Supper. Do not forget that and do not forget to teach people that. I think if you said to the average Christian, what is the meaning, what is the purpose of the Lord’s Supper? They would answer, "Well, it is to show that we are all united." I really do because I have done it. That is the kind of answer you get. Now that is not wrong. Yes, that is one of the things it shows but what shows is that we are all united and once again saying we accept Christ’s covenant. He died for us, we remember his death until he comes and he said, "This is the New Covenant in my blood so every time you do this remember me and remember you are in covenant with me." He declares it to be a covenant renewal practice. This will help them to see that and they will see, even every time they take communion, they will see that they are part of the meta-narrative of Scripture. The great plan of redemption and all these covenants testifying to it successively that God has done it for you, your job is to respond to him and to keep his covenant. It is a wonderful privilege to do it and the renewal of that covenant is taken every time there is communion. We do a lot more covenant renewals than the Israelites ever did. We do them really constantly.