Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Humility, Shrewdness, or both?

Through the Bible in 90 Days: Day 23

Read: 2 Samuel 12:11-22:18

Verse that stood out:
Then the king said to Zadok, "Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the LORD's eyes he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again" - 2 Samuel 15:25

In 2 Samuel 15, David is fleeing Jerusalem because his son Absalom has usurped the throne. As he heads out of town the priests join him with the Ark of the Covenant. As soon as they get a safe distance out of town they stop and offer sacrifices to God. This is a fairly significant move. One that reminds the people that David, not Absalom is God's anointed. One that asserts that God's presence, is with the one who is fleeing and not the usurper.

Which makes David's next move all that more surprising. He sends the ark back to Jerusalem! On the one hand, this is a very shrewd move on David's part. He trusts the priests to be loyal to him, not Absalom. If they're back in Jerusalem they can keep an eye on what's going on and send reports back to David. On the other hand, David's stated reason for sending the ark back to Jerusalem is that of humility. He claims that he's sending the ark back because he does not want to use God's presence as a bargaining chip in this family skirmish. If God is for him (or against him), that will be proved in time.

It's difficult to discern David's true motivation. But his words ring true, nonetheless. God won't be manipulated, not even by those who possess the most sacred of objects. If God is for David, sending the ark back won't cause him any harm. If God is against David, carrying the ark with him won't offer David any added protection. God is God, after all, not a good-luck charm.

Most of us, like David, think that God is on our side. That's fine, as long as we maintain a certain amount of humility about it. We might after all, be wrong - as David had been before. I've heard many a preacher or influential church member manipulate a congregation into an action by emphatically asserting that God told them some action was God's will. I'm always a little suspicious of such language. It sounds a little like parading the ark around saying if you want to be on God's side you have to follow me. I wonder if we shouldn't just argue our case the best we can (we can even say we think something is God's will as long as we leave ourselves open to correction) and leave discussions of God's ultimate will in God's hands alone.

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