BiND: Day 21
Today we see a progression in Saul’s instability—we watch his breakdown (and, as a mirror for the Israelites, theirs too) from the eyes of David. And we see a progression in David, from harp playing-shepherd boy to anointed warrior. Through it all, he is a “man after God’s own heart”—he doesn’t do violence against God’s anointed king, even though Saul deserves it in the eyes of some and even though Saul puts himself in positions where David could easily kill him. David plays the harp to relieve Saul’s mental anguish episodes (the first documented instance of music therapy?).
The books of Samuel (originally one book, most likely) were written after David, probably during the period of the exile. As we’ve noted before, the theological foundation is found in Deuteronomy, but the political motivation becomes pretty clear as we read these early stories of David—David is THE pre-eminent king of Israel, he’s the one, the anointed, the one who God chose and established, the one who united the tribes and created peace and defeated enemies and didn’t allow any straying from the LORD….you get the idea. In some ways the books of Samuel (and some other books in the Bible too) are hagiography—they are here to show us all the great things David did, how wonderful he was, as though he’s a saint. He’s here to be emulated, to tell stories about, to show us what a close relationship with the LORD looks like in everyday life. He is the anointed, the mashiach (which means anointed—and translates as “messiah”). This is what a great king he was, the best! and this is what our community looked like then—so let’s try to be that again.
With that in mind, notice all the great things David does! He kills the Philistine (who may or may not be Goliath—we’ll find later that Elhanan killed a giant Philistine named Goliath too), liberating the Israelites from their fear. He doesn’t kill Saul when he has the opportunity—he uses non-violent means of getting his message across. His closest friend is the son of his rival. He is an accomplished shepherd, rock-slinger, harpist, singer, poet, warrior, politician, and friend. Most importantly, he follows God’s commands, he goes where God leads, he celebrates the LORD and he lives in awe of God. He is the definition of faithful. Meanwhile, Saul makes blunder after blunder, is tormented and anguished, and seems to think that power is his own rather than coming from God. He clutches at his power, killing indiscriminately, chasing his friend, bringing up the spirit of Samuel for guidance (since he feels God has deserted him), and getting into trouble. This is what kings do, right? David’s behavior suggests otherwise.