God’s Promise to David (4)
David’s Prayer: 2 Samuel 7:25-29
Following is how King David concludes his prayer in response to the LORD God’s promise.
25 “And now, Lord God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, 26 so that your name will be great forever. Then people will say, ‘The Lord Almighty is God over Israel!’ And the house of your servant David will be established in your sight.
27 “Lord Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, ‘I will build a house for you.’ So your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. 28 Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. 29 Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, Sovereign Lord, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.”
In the above first paragraph, in which David pleas for God’s keeping of the promise, he makes no appeal based upon his or his family’s future performance. He rather bases his plea in the only possible place for a human addressing God; that being God’s own sovereign choice. It is only because God’s sovereign character is to keep His promises that King David can hope for continuance.
In the concluding paragraph of this mighty prayer we find all of the preceding themes summarized and finalized. In humility, thankfulness and confidence in God alone this elect human being concludes a prayer which is a foundation stone for our Christian faith and all of the goodness that has flowed therefrom.
I must return to the question raised in the previous post.
That being, how is it that (for many contemporary people), with David’s life story more closely resembling the character Max from “The Road Warrior” than Rev. Maclean from “A River Runs Through It,” he could have prayed such a humble, profound prayer?
Although I’ve already rejected this cultural context, I yet understand how those far more immersed in Hollywood than in God’s Word could find themselves utterly bewildered by this turn of events. To them, it’s as if Max, at the end of the movie had received God’s eternal blessing and had bowed down to say such a prayer in response. And, yes, if this is your frame of reference then the two thoughts are indeed seemingly irreconcilable.
The first response is to point out that, even in the not too distant past, there was not necessarily a contradiction between the doing of violence and the having of virtue. For example, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Winston Churchill waged bloody, brutal total war on the Axis Powers in World War II with the understanding that their doing so fell well within the bounds of Christian virtue. The same could be said of Abraham Lincoln and
George Washington, among many, many others. Even in the very recent past, President Obama, a professing Christian, waged lethal drone warfare on Islamic terrorists (my phrase, not his) and maintained a significant military presence in Afghanistan. My point is that we are wading in a shallow moral pool indeed by pretending that violence and virtue are necessarily opposites (though in civilized circumstances they usually are).
But there is another far more fundamental factor at play than any past, present or future cultural context. That factor is the LORD God Himself entering into David’s life with sanctifying power. Just as He did with Abraham, Moses, Peter and Paul (among so many others) — all of whom were frail, fallen flesh — God yet used them for his sovereign purposes as they engaged with this fallen world, which sometimes led to great and small acts of violence.
For a godless man, participation in violence creates arrogance, pride and the lust for more of the same. However, for a man saved through Christ by the Holy Spirit, the tragic necessity for violence is intended to create conditions in which wicked people will not oppress them anymore (2 Samuel 7:10).
This tragic necessity of warfare to open up the potential for peaceful, virtuous life is beautifully explained in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Sam Gamgee, a Hobbit who has experienced war, terrors, ultimate evil and, finally, victory returns home to his beloved family.
“But Sam turned to Bywater, and so came back up the Hill, as day was ending once more. And he went on, and there was yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor upon his lap.
He drew a deep breath. ‘Well, I’m back,’ he said”
It is absolutely clear that this peaceful purpose is what all of the terrible sacrifice had been ultimately about. It’s frustrating to see so many people in the United States who live in the peace purchased by past and current sacrifice showing no understanding of or thankfulness for this blessing.
So, the redeemed man David, after he had for years, fled, hid, fought and killed, learned the humility, thankfulness and trust in God that enabled such a prayer to be said. He learned that, apart from God, he could do nothing. Although David, by his wits and prowess overcame all of his enemies, under the Holy Spirit’s tutelage he came to that Reformed realization that banishes pride and arrogance; cowardice and passivity.
I am the heart, He is the heartbeat
I am the eyes, He is the sight
And I see clearly, I am just a body
He is the life
I move my feet, I go through the motions
But He gives purpose to chance
I am the dancer
He is the Lord of the dance
Steven Curtis Chapman – Lord Of The Dance Lyrics | MetroLyrics
Does the preceding discussion answer all questions and solve all problems associated with violence in the Bible? Certainly not. However, I do hope that it begins to open up paths of inquiry that will allow us to properly integrate these troubling passages into a coherent, comprehensive understanding of God’s Word.