Monday, June 30, 2008
King David was a piece of work. Any biographer would love to tackle the life story of David – it is filled with high drama. The complexities, the contradictions; add to that power, greed, wealth, sex, political intrigue, family dysfunction, spirituality, epic battle scenes, the birth of a city – it’s all there.
He is emulated as a force to be reckoned with. His detractors point to his human frailty. Some have even wondered if he ever existed at all. (Modern archeology has proven them wrong.) He was bigger than life. But he exhibited a compelling humanity that makes him accessible. His journal is one of the most cherished books in the Bible. His vaulted language exalted Almighty God. But in those dark hours, when he took his quill in hand, he revealed his inner, private self – the haunting questions, the deep doubts, the resentments, the rage, the keen fears that robbed him of sleep. He openly approached his God. Toward the end of David’s life, God revealed himself as “Father.” David’s secrets were opened up in those prayers. If you read them carefully, you’ll find some of them disturbing – as disturbing as your own.
I remember like it was yesterday that unforgettable preacher who proclaimed from his pulpit a startling declaration – “David. Ah, David. I could never figure out how God could love that bastard!” It was a stunning line, but penetrating, too. How could God love any of us? And how could David, the one with such a promising start as a young warrior, the one whom Jonathan loved as a brother, the one whose feats of courage and conquest on the field of battle sparked the open affection and acclaim of a nation, the one who, at the height of his career could have fallen so badly… how could this one be so highly blessed as God’s anointed?
Maybe some came to doubt his existence simply because he was such a complete archetype of the human race. He is a composite of us all; the seeds of greatness and the seeds of destruction both planted in the garden of his heart.
No wonder Michelangelo, when faced with his greatest challenge – to chisel sculpture out of a monster slab of marble into a grand work of art – chose David as his prized subject in 1504. To this very day, that statue stands under a magnificent dome in Florence at the Gallery of the Academies receiving a steady stream of awestruck visitors; seventeen feet tall. He carries a sling over his shoulder and his eyes gaze off into the distance at a giant, ready to engage in battle. David is ready. Fearless.
But even David, when he comes to the end of his life, must let go of his most cherished dream. He envisioned a city; a shining city on a hill. By then, he accumulated considerable wealth. He wasn’t obsessed with a palace, or a burial site or some other monument to himself. He was, rather, possessed with a passion for God. As he sat with his prophet and friend, Nathan (the one who told him the truth; the one who exposed his dirty little secret), he reflected on the state of the Ark of the Covenant. It was Israel’s most prized possession.
He’d traveled to other lands. He saw what the stone-masons and the architects and the engineers built in honor of their gods. It embarrassed him. It inspired him. So he complained to Nathan, “The Ark of the Covenant sits there under a tent!” What’s up with that?
Nathan affirmed him as a visionary. And that’s what David became. He marshaled all the talent and material he could find. He drew up the plans. A fantastic Temple would sit on the most prominent hill in Jerusalem. It would stand as a world-class monument to the God of Gods. But by the time David conceived the plan, age caught up with him. His options narrowed.
And as hard as it was to imagine a new generation, represented by his young son, Solomon, taking on the challenge – he had to learn how to let it go. Now, in the twilight years, he must adapt. He must –
…trust the God who brought him this far.
…bless his untested, bright-eyed son.
…transition from implementer to encourager. From King to Emeritus.
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On this Monday, the summer of 2008, you are in transition, too. Maybe it’s age. Maybe it’s career. Maybe it’s money. Maybe it’s family. Whatever it is. It’s hard.
Welcome the change. Let go. Learn to trust. Learn to bless.
Like David, who said to Solomon –
“Now, my son, the LORD be with you… Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged.”
Copyright Kenneth E Kemp, 2008