Jun 10, 2018

“Mediators/Intercessors” 6-10-18

I Samuel 19
June 10, 2018

As we continue our partial journey through I Samuel, we come to a parting of the ways between David and King Saul.  Saul has from the beginning been suspicious of David, and although David is now his Son in Law, Saul has been trying to place him in high risk positions in battles so he will be killed.  Before that, in an evil Spirit possessed spirit of rage, Saul had tried to skewer David with his spear.
In this passage, we now see that he has started to discuss with his family members and servants the idea that David must be killed.  We know not how the servants responded, but we see the response of the family members who are mentioned.
These two had previously been mentioned as being in love with David.  Jonathan and David had developed a very close and loving relationship as friends, and Saul’s daughter Michal had asked her father to give her to David as his wife.
So when we get to this passage, we can pretty much guess what their response will be to discussions about having David Killed. 
Jonathon’s response is multifaceted.  He first warns David that Saul is trying to have him killed and urges David to hide, especially on the morning when Jonathan will be speaking to his father about David.
Then he went to his father and here it is obvious that his concern is not only for David.  If you look at the account of his speech to his father you will see that the word “SIN” occurs three times.  Once it is used in the negative of David when he points out that David has not done anything to transgress against or harm Saul.  But on the other two occurrences, it pertains to Saul and the behavior he seeks to perpetrate against David.  Jonathon makes it clear that to kill David without cause, even for the king, would be a sin, evil behavior, that would not only be against David, but would be noticed by and perhaps be the cause of judgments against Saul by God.
In other words, Jonathon is involved in this matter because he sought to save and help both David and Saul.  He wanted to save David’s life, but he also was concerned about the spiritual welfare of his Father.  He was very much afraid that if Saul killed David, an innocent man and much celebrated officer in his kingdom, it would bring great harm to Saul.
Jonathon’s mediation worked.  Saul swore that he would not seek to kill David, and Jonathon brought David before the king, and he was accepted once again to serve in the king’s court.
But then, David in his service to the king on the battlefield was victorious once again and the evil spirit of envy once again came into Saul, and Saul tried to kill David again with his spear.  David escaped and went home.
But Saul wasn’t finished yet.  He was determined to kill David, so he sent men to keep David from leaving his home that night, planning to kill him in the morning.
But Saul’s daughter, also David’s wife, Michal, warned David that if he did not leave during the night, Saul would kill him.  She helped him escape through a window and used an idol or idols to make it appear that David was sick in bed.  The Hebrew of that description is much more confusing than the English Translation is, but this translation is as good as any of the others.  All we really need to know is that Michal engaged in a subterfuge to keep her husband’s escape a secret for as long as possible.
It is interesting that David and Michal seem to have had idols in their home.  But David is never portrayed as being perfect, he is portrayed as being loved by God.
And although her behavior is clearly motivated to save her husband’s life, I think we can also think that she was keeping her father from doing harm to himself and his family.
I also want to make sure that you understand that I am not condoning Michal telling a lie to Saul here, that David threatened to kill her if she did not help him escape.  Lying is not OK, but who are we to judge a woman who was caught in a feud or fight between her husband and her father?  She did do the right thing but she should not have told the lie.
And, so we see these two intervening between their father and David, seeking to save David’s life, and perhaps, and keeping peace in their kingdom.
But, in case you did not notice, Jonathon and Michal are not the only mediators or peace keepers and life savers in this passage.  There are two more.
When Jonathon and Michal’s efforts failed, David fled to Samuel, the religious leader of Israel.  Samuel was in Ramah, the shorter name for his hometown and his place of residence.  The word Naioth means residence or lodgings.  It seems that Samuel had established a place for prophets and other religious laymen to come and live for a time in a camp-like environment and perhaps sing and write psalms and worship, as well as speak God’s words to others.  A part of their lifestyle there seems to have included spirit filled dancing and singing and what we call speaking in tongues. 
So David fled to Ramah, to Samuel, who was at the time the leader of this prophetic community. 
Now we know from previous passages, that Samuel was afraid of Saul.  Nevertheless Samuel did not turn David away.  He offered David Sanctuary.  He gave David a place to be safe while Saul was beginning to hunt him down.
The words Sanctuary, Refuge, and refugee have become so politically and ideologically charged in our time and place that it is easy for us to forget that the ideas of places of refuge and sanctuary originate in the bible.
Israel had cities of refuge for those who were accused of manslaughter and being hunted down.  Throughout the Old Testament we see people fleeing to the altar of God outside the Sanctuary of God, the house of God, for refuge and safety, as we see David Fleeing to the chief prophet of Israel.
Now, I am not saying that the cities and states of refuge in our time are biblically based, or to be honored simply because they use titles that originate in our bibles, but I am saying that such places that claim such lofty biblical titles deserve more than knee-jerk reactions before they are rejected as out of hand.
Samuel allowed David to remain among his prophets for a time.  And that is when things got really interesting. 
Saul sent his henchmen to Ramah to capture David and bring him to Saul, but when the henchmen arrived, they became overcome with the spirit of the place and they began to dance, sing and speak in tongues.  They were not in control of themselves and were not able to arrest David. 
Saul sent two more groups of henchmen who suffered the same fate. Then he went to Ramah to get David, and the Spirit overcame him and he danced, sang and praised God as one of the prophets.  He, too, was so overcome that he was unable to arrest David.
So, I would say the even the Holy Spirit of God was a mediator or buffer between Saul and David.
This was the second time that the spirit of God overcame Saul in this way, and the people eventually developed a saying about how even Saul, for a time could be overcome by God.
I am not sure that this passage is given as much thought in our day as it deserves.  In it we see Jonathan and Michal, and Samuel and even the Holy Spirit doing things a thousand years before Jesus that Jesus would later recommend for his followers.  In the beatitudes, Jesus told his followers that God blesses and favors the peacemakers, and those who suffer for the sake of righteousness.
In our time, there is much being said about the lack of civility in our world, our nation, our schools, our communities, and our families.  In all of these we need mediators, or people who will try to bring civility, people who will try to give some time and space to those who are opposed to each other. 
In doing so, we might be seen as favoring one side, but in fact we need to see ourselves as providing a service for both sides.  We are providing safety and comfort for some, and we are keeping others from sinning as their behavior could otherwise harm others.
Now don’t misunderstand me or Jesus.  Sometimes mediators get in trouble for trying to help.  Jesus referred to it as suffering for righteousness sake.
Our friend Zhang Kai, the civil rights lawyer who tried to mediate for Christians in China knows all about it. Today we honor him and I ask you to continue to pray for him.
I would remind you that it is easy to read this passage and assume that Jonathan, Michal, Samuel and the Spirit of God failed, because they did not reconcile Saul to David.  But David did survive to be king, and Saul was prevented from the great sin of killing David. 
I also need to remind you that people in your families and our communities and our world need us to bring the love of Christ into their situations by intervening in their lives.  As we try to help people get along, we also need to remember that people also need us to help them know and get along better with God.  We are called to help people coexist with other people, and to help people know and get along with God.

Pastor David Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906