2 Samuel 1: 1-16 John 8: 1-15
May the Lord be with you! (And also with you…)
Last week at the beginning of my message time, I had given a little bit of a catch-up as to where we were with First Samuel, or with rather how First Samuel had ended. And as I’d said then, First Samuel was really probably one of humanity’s very first intricately written soap operas; in its relationship with God, in its relationship with Samuel and then even with the coronation of the flawed Saul to be the first king. And then, of course, with how David got into the picture, Saul’s misplaced adoration, the love between David and Saul’s daughter and how she became a pawn of her father’s because of her love for David, the friendships and the betrayals of so many, not to mention the scheming that was taking place back and forth. Certainly, First Samuel does have all of the elements needed to be put right up there with my mother’s favorite General Hospital episodes.
And then we come now to Second Samuel, and to be honest, I don’t think that the story line gets away from where it was in the First. There are power-plays and intrigue, more love affairs, scandal and murder, heart breaks and personalities that you would think would just have to be made up; we see greed and we see vengeance as well as devastating punishment. And so you may just find yourself asking the question, why on earth are we really going to be talking about all of this kind of stuff in, of all places, the church, ..and on a Sunday morning to boot? And you may just ask too, how on earth is this supposed to aid me in my spiritual walk instead of simply be entertaining to me? Well, it’s like this. Although we often think about the heroes of the Bible and believe them to be more blessed and connected to God than we could ever be ourselves, and even though we most often believe that these characters are to be either elevated far above or far below our own selves and the lives that we lead, the fact of the matter is that those characters and their lives are ultimately not even a small distance from our own. And yes, these happenings of which we see in our Scriptures may be of characters so well known to history, but as it turns out, those characters are just like us in more ways than they’re not. We, like they, experience love and disappointment, joy and even intrigue, greed and jealousy and the effects of those on our day to day, some of us even experience murder and all of us experience death in this world. We have doubt and belief in our God just like they had, and we are often pretty self-centered and self-concerned as they clearly were too. And so what does this all boil down to for us? Well, I’ll tell you that too. What this all boils down to for us humans is how it is that all of us throughout all time really have essentially always had the exact same extremely human frailties. Whether it be within our relationship with God or in our relationships with one another, or perhaps even within the relationship we have with ourselves. And so I hope that we can see just how it is that we can look at those lives played out in the Scriptures, and see our own lives reflected, that we can look at how God taught them to deal with or to not deal with what was confronting them, and us, and therefore, see just how it is that God does direct us in this very confusing and confused world? So let’s get started with Second Samuel chapter one.
We know that at the end of First Samuel that Saul dies after a battle with the Philistines that takes place in the northern reachings of the country, as did Saul’s son Jonathan. What exactly had happened was that Saul had been wounded and knew that he would die, and so he asked for some assistance from the first person he saw, an Amalekite who’d been living with the Israelites and was therefore in their army. And so this Amalekite helped King Saul so that when the king was to lean down onto his sword, that it would be in the specifically correct place to kill him almost instantaneously. The Amalekite, knowing that at least in some respects he had just killed the king, took Saul’s crown and a bracelet for proof, and then ran to find David to tell him of the occurrence. He finds David, just freshly off the battle field himself, far to the south of where he’d been, and tells him every last detail. David is stunned and distraught. No matter all of the crazy circumstances that had taken place between he and King Saul, Saul had always remained to David a source of admiration and love. And then in what everyone who hears these word ends-up being flabbergasted by, David turns to this loyal Amalekite soldier and asks him, “Were you not afraid to kill the Lord’s anointed one?”, he was half asking and half exclaiming. He doesn’t appear to give the man a chance to respond but instead then orders his soldiers to kill him and they do. And then he says, “You die self-condemned, for you yourself confessed that you killed the Lord’s anointed one.” And here we are left a little stunned.
This Amalekite had done King Saul a favor, helping him die with some dignity. Saul had been wounded and knew what was coming, and didn’t want to give his enemies the Philistines the pleasure of taking his life in what would surely have been a really gruesome way, and so instead he ended his life himself, essentially on his terms. This poor Amalekite had simply assisted at the king’s request. And then to top it all off, he takes the crown – by far the most important symbol, along with a bracelet, and goes off to find David; Lord knows he didn’t have to do that, but he does. …Now we could say that in David’s anger at the death of Saul and Jonathan – and Jonathan remember had been like a brother to David – that he wasn’t thinking straight, and had focused all of his anger and devastation onto the poor Amalekite, and we could try to analyze the situation and create excuses for David as so often we do perhaps for ourselves at things that we’ve done, but the bottom line is that what David did was actually inexcusable by any standards. And I know that we could also say that somehow it was justified, David had passed judgement and found the Amalekite culpable in Saul’s death, but is this what human justice is supposed to look like, is that what human justice often ends up being, the one who is stronger is correct, the one who has the might is always right, is human justice ultimately about who has the power?
I remember one time when the boys were really young, Nadiim was in kindergarten, and he had done something, I forget what it was now, but what I do remember is that I had just come home from a long day and was in absolutely no mood to deal with anything, and whatever it was he’d done just got me so mad. I remember yelling at him and sending him to his room and maybe I even gave him a smack, I know he certainly got upset by it all. And then right afterwards Hala came to me and told me how wrong I was and how I’d actually not understood anything about the situation and that Nadiim had actually been attempting to do something nice for me. And of course I felt like a horse’ patutey. I did then go to Nadiim and explained to him that I had not understood what he’d been doing and that I knew that I’d really let my anger get out of my control, and that maybe it was because I was just really exhausted, but that that was not an excuse and that I was sorry. We hugged and then everything was fine, but like David – even though my example is on an incredibly smaller scale – I allowed my judgement to become irrational. Has anyone here ever done something as such before? Whether towards your kids, or your spouse, or your parents, or your siblings, hopefully never to your pet. But I do think it probably safe to say that we’ve all been there and have all done it. I hope that it has never meant that you’ve actually killed a person because of whatever it may have been, but nonetheless, I would suspect that I don’t stand here at church today as the only guilty party.
Now last week at our Tuesday bible study we read through these verses and then really in earnest, began asking just how our Christianity would address such a situation or one similar. Essentially that most famous of questions that we ask which is “What would Jesus do?” was being asked. And so what would Jesus do? What is the example we’re to follow? Well thankfully, we do have something of an idea about what Jesus would do, how Jesus would tackle such an issue?
***Listen here for the Word of the Lord….. John 8: 1-11
Now here we have this situation, and whereas it’s certainly different in make up from the Old Testament occurrence, it does still offer to us nonetheless a really important glimpse into not only the issue of judgement, but also an important glimpse into how Jesus did handle the question of judging others.
This group of Pharisees brings to Jesus this woman, they want to trap him, but he’s too smart for that. But then after hearing what they have to say he puts forth that the woman, for clearly breaking the Mosaic Law, could be stoned. But that if she was to be stoned to death upon this judgement that had obviously already been passed, then her life should only be taken by the power that was truly able to take it without needing to be concerned with being hypocritical and a liar which is truly also a vagrant sin. Jesus knew that that only power would be God himself. He, or she, who is a sinner in Jesus’ judgement should not have the right to pass such a sentence until they themselves are washed of their sin and then leading a life of perfection. And Lord knows that that’s impossible for us in this life, in this creation. And in forming his reply as such, Jesus was clearly letting all of the Pharisees present know that they were essentially no better than their accused.
And so should we or even can we judge one another for indiscretions that are simply exemplifying our human weaknesses? I think we all know that the answer is certainly a complicated one. We say that we must follow Jesus’ example in all that we do, so does that mean that we simply never judge or adhere to a set standard of rules and laws if ultimately Jesus forgives us anyway? If Jesus isn’t going to condemn me, then what do have I have to worry about, why not just all of us do as we want and not really care about where the chips may fall?
Well, let’s think about the offenses that John was bringing up here in this Gospel occurrence and think about what Jesus may have been trying to teach us. First, we have the Pharisees who are trying to not only entrap Jesus but to put this woman’s life to an end because of her being in an adulteress relationship, something that is forbidden within Mosaic Law. I think we can safely say that Jesus was by far more offended by the actions of the Pharisees – as he generally always was – than by the woman who’d they’d brought in front of him. The Pharisees are clearly sinners, they’re power players and constantly trying to position themselves into better situations for the reward of material comforts and prestige. They try to not only entrap Jesus, but they treat the life of the woman they’ve brought to him as a pawn, not seeing her life as worth anything near to their own. They’re clearly seeing themselves as far above the people that they are supposed to be teaching and caring for and leading.
On the other hand, we have a woman who has committed adultery, an obvious sin. We don’t know her marital status, it’s never mentioned, and in addition, where is the guy she was with and what was his marital status? Seems to me some serious double standarding at play. Now if she was unmarried and the man she was with was also unmarried, their offense is really directed toward God only. No one else would have been hurt or essentially effected by what they’d done. However, if the two adulterers had been married, then their spouses and perhaps children become their victims. And, in that case, there is a set of standard rules that one can go through to divorce the spouse if that is the direction the offended spouse wants to take. Rules that have been set out in the Mosaic Law to be followed. Those rules do not entail automatic stoning upon hasty judgement by a group of religious community leaders who, as Jesus clearly points out, are certainly no better than anyone else, and who on top of it all are often manipulating any situation for their own benefit.
Jesus clearly believes in calling a spade, a spade, truthfulness is a necessity. And whereas Jesus was using the situation to teach everyone involved a valuable lesson about NOT passing judgement where their authority is not a part of the reality, he too was teaching us a valuable lesson with regard to the woman. Jesus would not pass judgement on her because I believe that we are to also realize that there are actions we commit that can only be judged by God on our day of reckoning. Whereas there are rules and regulations from God that are set in place to handle most any situation that must be adhered to in cases that need judgement, the bottom line is that judgement must never be hasty and without understanding of the entire picture in front of us.
And so how would Jesus have treated the Amalekite who came running to David? I think chances are that he would have thanked him for helping Saul pass from this life in a way that would have been more to Saul’s desire, and I’m sure that Jesus would have also thanked him for the bringing of Saul’s crown and bracelet. And I think that Jesus would have realized that the Amalekite, like David, was also in mourning for a person that at the very least he respected and admired.
And so the bottom line we can take from both of these lessons? If put into a situation where your judgement is called for, judge not hastily, judge lovingly and always judge using the rule of law set out by God, and the with the compassion that God has instilled into each of our hearts. And this is in all situations, not just the few or select. And put yourselves into the other person’s shoes and try to see their perspective. I’m sure that that is what Jesus would do.
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.