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God in the Mess of it all

Notes & Transcripts

Heavenly Father, May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight – Our strength and our saviour – Amen

Our God is an Awesome God!

            Despite it all, Despite all that we do to turn away or ignore God - God keeps coming back

God lives… in the mess of all our lives

                                    Our God is an awesome God!

It has been said that there is ‘the God of the Old Testament - and there is ‘the God of the New Testament’

Well that might be a view for some of the attributes of God

But that is not true for the most important attribute of God

            In particular – God’s mercy

Today we had yet another passage from the prophet Samuel – again this week from 2nd Samuel

We are reading through large chucks of books of the bible – in a somewhat continuous fashion – over the course of three years we will cover the majority of the Bible on Sundays

The high points – or main stories of each book

And so we are yet again walking through the on-going sage that is David – the most important King that Israel has ever had.

Here are some of the high points of what we have covered in the last few weeks

We started in mid-June to hear the story of How David as a young boy was selected and anointed to be the future King of Israel

Selected by Samuel, the prophet… THE prophet of Israel, King Saul’s closest advisory – after the Spirit of the Lord had left King Saul

As you may remember, he was shown 7 of David’s older brothers – 7 of Jessie’s sons that were invited to the banquet

And yet it was the uninvited, youngest, smallest that was chosen by God for Samuel to anoint

And we heard God’s view about David’s brothers…

“Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected them; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart”(1 Sam 16:7)

Like last week, where St Paul declared “for the sake of Christ; whenever I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:10)

God regularly addresses the expectations of this world, and turns it on its head

We are often faced with surprising choices of God, the contrast between the way the world views things… and the more important way that God views the world

And then we had the account of David and Goliath, with a surprising twist at the end

            David was sent to the battle front, on an errand for his father Jessie

To bring some food for his three eldest brothers – the only ones old enough to be soldiers in Saul’s army.

We heard the absurd details of a story in which it appears that the deck is completely stacked against David ever being there,

Against David ever having Saul agree to let him stand and fight, as the representative risking all of Israel, on a boy

We see the dramatic contrast between the super-human giant, Goliath, battle trained and experienced

And the young, inexperienced, 8th son, shepherd, out on an errand

Yet again, like the story of the previous week, “God rejects the obvious choices”

We are reminded “that God's strength is sufficient” – but also so much more than that

We were given a window into understanding the Doctrine of Election – where God shows us in the election of David – that election is for a purpose

There is the lesson on the preparation for purpose that David underwent, by the grace of God

How the menial job of tending to the sheep, protecting them from the bear and the lion – was good conditioning for the Giant Goliath

Providing for us - That God is faithful through all the lessons in life

And we are challenged to face the Goliath shadows in our own lives - face them while remaining in faith of God’s provision

And finally and ultimately, the surprise twist of the story that David wasn’t the underdog after all –

Because it was the team of David and God…

                                    The true underdog was the Giant Goliath

We learned that we all can bring glory to God’s name by living the good news that God is with us

Now and forever – that by living the purpose of our lives and not being sidetracked by the Goliath’s shadows, we are both the blessing and the blessed

Then last week, where in 2nd Samuel we hear how David, is at long last, selected by all of Israel, the tribes in the north and the tribes in the south, to be the King

            Selected as a boy – King over all Israel not until he was 38

                        We heard how David at that moment made a covenant with the elders

We are reminded of the most incredible characteristic of God’s Good News

… that God has risked it all on us

That we still need to be part of the Gospel

Each of us in word or deed - to friends, family, colleagues at work and neighbours - We need to have faith in the gospel, in order for the Gospel to affect us

God’s risked it all on our participation

And finally we come to our reading from today

Today we have the story of Ark of the Covenant – basically the elaborate container that held the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments that Moses brought back from meeting with God

            We have the Ark of the Covenant coming to Jerusalem

For me, when I think of the Ark of the Covenant – my understanding has forever been imprinted by Indiana Jones, when he first appeared on the cinematic scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981

It is a fun story of an action adventure star from an unlikely character Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr. – an archeologist at Harvard University

He has been enlisted by the US government to find the Ark of the Covenant, before the Germany Nazis do – as they believe it contains unknown power that will make their military invisible

This belief in using the power of the Ark for personal gain is not an outrageous Hollywood idea – it is part of the legacy associated with the Ark of the Covenant found in scripture

And similar to the movie, where the final climactic scene has Indy's archrival, Belloq, befitted with high priestly regalia, opening the lid of the ark and unleashed the glory of the LORD,

Which quite literally melted Belloq and his Nazi benefactors, all those who would dare look upon the LORD

The biblical testimony reveals that God’s power is not to be trivialized or attempted to be manipulated

The account of the Ark of the Covenant has its ups and downs

In today’s account, we are told that David at first put the Ark on a new cart for the journey

That at one point, when it came to the uneven ground, Uzzah a Priest, one of Abinadab’s sons reached out and grabbed hold of it – and for his efforts was struck down dead

Why – why did God strike Uzzah dead

It is possible that since God was very exacting when it came to the Ark of the Covenant

That Uzzah’s action displayed both disobedience and also a form of arrogance,

Since the very power of God was present in the Ark of the Covenant, Uzzah by grabbing hold of it was in effect domesticating God

In a way grabbing hold of God Himself

            Now, before you think this is a terrible story out of character for God

This is not the only time when it is fatal to tamper with God’s instructions regarding the Ark of the Covenant

In 1st Samuel chapters 6 we hear how it ends up in Beth-shemesh, where the townsfolk greeted the ark with rejoicing,

But some curious ones looked into the ark - and they insight the wrath of the LORD…

And seventy died.

Not surprisingly the survivors commented, "Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God?   To whom shall he go so that we may be rid of him?" (1 Sam 6:20)

Not too far off the climax of Raiders of the Lost Ark

It is stories like this that lead people to believe that there was a God of the Old Testament that was different than the New Testament

Or maybe people were just more sensitive – more aware of the presence of God and the role that God takes in their lives – we have the benefit of looking at history from wide lenses

Where in the moment of any situation we can lack that grand perspective

We discover that David forgot.  David forgot the part about the stories that said to treat the Ark with the utmost respect,

To not touch it, to carry it in a certain way, with poles, with reverence, not on some cart

And we are told that the Ark is delayed the entrance into Jerusalem for months, the presence of God delayed, and cost some poor guy his life.

We are told of David’s fear of the Lord

Maybe, because David too, was trying to domestic God and then is given a dramatic reminder of the power of God

Before this, David was using the Ark of the Covenant for his own purposes, bringing the into battle and winning –        That the very sight of it brought fear into Israel’s enemies eyes

And now David is trying to bring the power of God into “the new city of David” – Jerusalem

So, for a while, the journey is interrupted and David leaves it with a foreigner, a Giddite

Obed-edom’s house, where the ark rested for three months, had good fortune and was blessed

And so then David remembered that he wanted that for the whole people of Israel

        He overcame his fear and brought the ark into Jerusalem… and with it the power of God

Only when David realizes that the Ark is bringing blessing to another that David reconsiders and continues the journey

Generally when the story is told the focus is on David and his zeal for God

All through the travels David is dancing and celebrating with great exuberance in front of the parade of Ark of the Covenant

           

What is seldom the focus of the story is the fact that David is using the Ark of the Covenant as a crafty political move

            He certainly ingratiates himself to his people

He certainly brings it when it is politically expedient, after a messy battle with the Jebusites to gain control of the city that is renamed Jerusalem, literally meaning city of David

Yet leaving it along the way when it appears to be a thing that might bring a curse against its handlers

           

David is a complex character – which in itself makes him all the more real to our understanding

            Where sometimes we tell only of his triumphs, the scriptural testimony includes a wider picture

What is seldom the focus of the story of David and Goliath, is that three times he asks what the reward would be if he was the victor over Goliath – prior to making any brave claims

                                    David is three times sure of potential wealth, fame and promise of a royal bride

                                                Something an 8th son would never realised by his lot in life

Also we focus on David’s remarkable aim by bringing Goliath down - with a single shot

Yet we can miss the detail that he gathered 5 smooth stones from the riverbed

One thing that is certainly missed from every children’s’ version of the story, which is a good thing, is that David, after levelling Goliath, continues running forward and jumps on top of Goliath and then cuts his head off

Not only that, but walks around for a few days, carrying the severed head around

Even bringing it with him during a visit with King Saul

           

Why don’t we ever question David’s motives in either of these stories?

       We generally like to tell of David’s great faith and complete commitment to God by standing up to Goliath

We like to tell of David’s faith, being so great that he danced with abandonment as he led the procession of the Parade of the Ark of the Covenant

We don’t like to tell the whole story and we sanitize it

By sanitizing, making it safe for the children to read and learn about it – we can fall into the trap of missing out on the full story as adults

And the full story has more to tell us

The fear might be that we might dilute the story by telling of David ‘warts and all’

            When in fact… We add more – we bring another layer to the story

In fact, it is a fundamental story of God’s relationship to us

God is not a safe God

                                                God is not one that deals with only the righteous, the holy

                                                            The people that are perfect, and therefore worthy of God – no!

In fact God deals with even the greats of the faith – warts and all

We, are like David, his faults don’t show his weakness so much as they show God’s greatest even more

God is a merciful God – even more when we consider all the faults of us, his followers

                       

Whether that be God’s surprise selection for the future King, the boy David, not even invited to the banquet – yet the one that was to become the greatest King ever for Israel

Or whether it be young David’s ambition in triple-checking the reward he would get for winning against Goliath

Or grabbing 5 stones

Or whether it is the way in which David used the Ark of the Covenant as a good luck charm – How he might have manipulated the situation masterfully to gain favour with his people

Sin is real and faith is real; most of the time, like with heroes of the faith, such as King David,

Sin and Faith are there, concurrently, in one event and one person

            Just like Sin and Faith are there in our greatest and worst moments of our lives

Regardless of the situation … The blemishes of the people matter… because, the details of the story matter

God is made greater by the problems because – God is that much more merciful

God’s mercy is the lesson

            God gets into the mess of it all

                        Then as now… Old Testament or New

                                                            God gets into the mess of all our lives…

This is part of the ‘essence’ of the gospel message

God came as a fragile little baby – God came as one of us

            God knows first hand – what we are… What a mess we truly are

And yet… And yet…  - God keeps coming back

            God is not intimidated by our problems

But keeps stepping into our shoes and keeps saying

– I came for all of this

Christ came and died once and for all – so that we wouldn’t have to…

            Our God is an awesome God

Thank you Abba – Thank you Jesus - Thank you enabling Spirit - Amen                 

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