Saturday, June 10, 2006

Content in Our Tents

I'm not a morning person. Never have been. It's not that I don't like mornings, it's just that I wish they didn't come so early in the day!

So when I had to roll out of bed on a Saturday for a 7:00 a.m. meeting, it was tough rolling. The inside of the sheets felt much cozier than the outside of the blankets. Add to that the thought of sitting through a (snore) business meeting, and my body wanted no part of the outside world. I was perfectly content to lay there with my wife waiting for her alarm to go off in another hour and a half. But being at the meeting was part of my job, my responsibility. So with heavy heart and even heavier eyelids, I managed to drag myself out of bed and downstairs to get dressed.

I've been studying David over the past couple of months. Great guy, that David. Well, most of the time. Still there are so many inspiring examples we can glean from the life of the shepherd boy-turned-king. The one passage that seems to get everyone's attention is his battle with Goliath. Not many biblical references have been turned into sports cliches, but the old David vs. Goliath metaphor is not only used, but has racked up too many miles.

In all the verses about armor and slings and giant heads, one detail hides from us. He hides from us in his tent. You see, for 40 days Goliath, the Philistine champion challenged the Israelites to send out their champion for a one-on-one battle. Who was the Israelite champion? We're not told of any champion. The only person we are told about is the king who stands head and shoulders above the rest of the men. Saul. It was Saul's fight. And where was Saul when Goliath was out trash-talking every morning and every evening? You got it. Hiding in his tent. Not wanting to go into battle.

I've read 1 Samuel 17 about a ka-jillion times, but never was I as stuck by the visual image of a cowering King Saul as I was this time through. As the Philistine champion's voice rang throughout the valley, Saul was walking around with his fingers in his ears, afraid to come out of his tent. He knew something had to be done, but if he stayed in his tent maybe, just maybe, Goliath would get tired of the game and go away. The tent became Saul's refuge and friend. Venturing out would mean that he might have to do something. Had David not bailed Saul out, there's no telling how long Saul would have remained content in his tent.

But how can I come down hard on Saul? What idiot would want to go out and be destroyed by a 9-foot, 9-inch monster? Oh, sure, there's David... but who else?

Of course David saw the battle as something completely different than Saul was seeing. David saw a victory with the power of the Almighty. Saul saw a crushing defeat with an army of Israelites.

There are many times when I look and see no chance to overcome a challenge. I can see instant defeat. I can imagine no earthly hope. And so I try to elude the battle entirely. I hide in my tent until I realize that the battle is exactly what I have been called to fight.

I see many churches as well, content in their tent, er... sanctuaries, avoiding all challenges that Christ has put before them.
Evangelism? "EEK!"
Putting God before ourselves? "DOUBLE EEK!"
Abandoning traditions which don't honor God? "Let's put our fingers in our ears and sing, 'Give me that old time religion, it's good enough for me'!"

How many Christians and how many churches are sitting today, content in their tents, hoping that the battle to which they have been called will simply go away?


julie said...

Thanks for this post Rev. It was exactly what I needed today.

Jennifer said...

Good thoughts. Our pastor talked about David today, too. Lots to learn from that guy.

R. Stewart said...

I shouldn't be surprised - I'm not a morning person either. Figures we'd have view in agreement as well:)

Jeremy Pierce said...

My understanding is that the custom would have precluded Saul serving as his own underling. Goliath wasn't a Philistine king, and it would have been unheard of for the Israelite king to go head-to-head with a mere lackey. It wasn't Saul's fight according to the customary way these fights were conducted. Maybe you have other reasons for thinking this was his fight in some non-customary sense, but they're not divine providential reasons. According to divine providence, it was most certainly David's fight.

I do think something of this is right. Saul was the king, and he wasn't willing either to have someone face Goliath (he could have ordered it) or to deny the challenge and simply fight the Philistines (which happened anyway, even if it involved the Philistines breaking their deal). Saul seemed to want to drag it out without ever confronting the problem. I don't think that means he should have fought him himself.

rev-ed said...

Interesting, Jeremy, but my contention is not that Saul should have fought because he was king but because he was the strongest physical specimen we know of. He is described as being head and shoulders above everyone else. If there was a physical match among the Israelites, it most likely would have been Saul. At the very least, Saul should have had someone sent into battle. He may well have stalled because there was no one else suitable as a match for the Philistine.

And yes I agree that according to divine providence it was David's fight, but then I doubt that was what was on Saul's mind the first 40 days he listened to Goliath's trash talk!

I do think we agree that Saul tried to avoid the problem by ignoring it.

Glad you stopped by. I always enjoy your perspective.

Rev. Jo said...

I am interested in the background history of using champions to fight in battles instead of whole armies. Do you know the origin of this and any other info that might be helpful along this line. The similarities in Homer's Iliad of Hector and Menelaus, etc., is amazing. Where does this sort of doing battle originate and how and why? Thanks

rev-ed said...

Sent you an email, Thanks for stopping by.