Herrenhuter readings for Saturday, the 21st February 2015

Study_of_King_David,_by_Julia_Margaret_Cameron

Then went king David in, and sat before the Lord, and he said, Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto? (2.Samuel 7,18)

God hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. (2.Timothy 1,9)

King David’s story is wonderful, full of miracles and wonders. From his fieldwork amongst those Judean hills tending his sheep and guarding them successfully against jackals, wolves and even lions too. I’d say, he had his hands quite full, yet he still learnt to play that harp or lyre so enticingly, that they even called him to the king Saul’s courts to sooth that distraught monarch’s frayed nerves. He was a true all-rounder as his victory over Goliath showed. Not trusting in armour, weapons or political tactics, his hope was on the Lord his God alone. In all his fights, skirmishes and battles he had learnt to trust in the living Lord. That triune God of Israel and all the world –  the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – was his sure strength, power and mighty fortress indeed. Him he praised and worshipped as source and goal of his life.

Even when he was king himself – saved countless times from the powerful pursuits and assaults of that envious king Saul, but also from those numerous enemies of God’s people in Canaan – he did not forget, where he came from and gave all honour and praise to the one, who had called and anointed him through the priest Samuel. His heart did not forget the one, who had called him to his own purpose and grace.

The story however would be too simple and not quite realistic if it would stop there. It would then sound more like a fairy tale or some mythological eulogy which sounds nice, but has nothing to do with real life. And our lives have their ups and downs. The downs are due to the fact that we live in a fallen world – and not only do we have enemies on the outside, but the old wily foe has his ally right within us and in our inmost being. Same as with King David. Just think of that snowballing effect of his adultery with beautiful Batsheba. The king starts lying, conniving and does not just break up a happy marriage of Uriah, but also gets him brutally murdered. In the end even the little baby dies. David at rockbottom? Well, that’s when he is called back by the prophet Nathan, called to repent, called to crawl back into the welcoming forgiveness of the almighty and gracious God:

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. (Psalm 51:1ff)

Fleeing from his very own rebellious son Absalom must have been one of the hardest things in the life of king David. On the way he then is cursed most viciously by that brave Shimei even though the king was surrounded by all his grandees. Shimei was not only cursing king David rudely, accusing him of being a man of blood – a bloodhound -, but also throwing stones at him as if he was a scavenging dog and not a king:

And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial: The Lord hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the Lord hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and, behold, thou art taken in thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man. Then said Abishai the son of Zeruiah unto the king, Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head. And the king said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so? And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him. It may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day. (2.Samuel 16:7ff)

King David thus showed us that he gave honour and glory to the Lord our God not only at the height of his career, but also when he had fallen furthers and into the deepest gloom. That’s why King David is a good example to us even to this very day. To us in high or low places, who as baptised Christians fit into the category St. Paul describes here to his student and son:

God hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. (2.Timothy 1,9)

“Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” by Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

1. Our God, our Help in ages past,
Our Hope for years to come,
Our Shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal Home!

2. Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

3. Before the hills in order stood
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.

4. A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone,
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.

5. Thy word commands our flesh to dust:
“Return ye sons of men!”
All nations rose from earth at first
And turn to earth again.

6. Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

7. Like flowery fields the nations stand,
Pleased with the morning light;
The flowers beneath the mower’s hand
Lie withering ere ’tis night.

8. Our God, our Help in ages past,
Our Hope for years to come,
Be Thou our Guard while troubles last
And our eternal Home!

The Lutheran Hymnal Hymn #123 Text: Ps. 90 Author: Isaac Watts, 1719, ab.
Composer: William Croft, 1708 Tune: “St. Anne”

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About Wilhelm Weber jr

Rector of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane
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