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Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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Pentecost 07/08/2018

When you watch TV dramas where each episode is part of an ongoing sequential plot, the latest show often starts with, “Previously on whatever the name of the show is,” and they proceed to show highlights of what has happened in earlier episodes in order to refresh your memory and get you up to speed. Today, with a text where David officially becomes king of all Israel, it seems like a good way to begin the sermon is to say, “Previously in First and Second Samuel…” and review what has happened in previous weeks, especially concerning David’s rise to power.

David was actually anointed to be king three times. A few weeks ago we had Samuel going to Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the future king to replace Saul who had fallen into disfavor. That son wound up being…David, the youngest, the shepherd boy who was out in the fields. Remember though that this anointing was pretty much a private affair and that Saul continued to be king with David becoming one of his greatest warriors not only in the Goliath episode but in other battles as well. At times though, Saul is fiercely jealous of David and wants to kill him because the people seem to like David best saying “Saul has killed his thousands and David his ten thousands” and hearing that Saul’s blood boils. At other times though, David is like a beloved son to Saul.

This goes on for awhile with a fair amount of plotting and intrigue until Saul and his son Jonathan, who was David’s friend and protector, were killed in battle which greatly grieved David. “Your glory, O Israel lies slain upon your high places! How the mighty have fallen!” That was last Sunday’s reading. With the death of Saul comes David’s second anointing, at Hebron, anointed as king of the tribe of Judah. However, the other eleven tribes of Israel rallied behind Ishbaal, one of Saul’s sons and what amounted to a civil war then took place for the next seven and a half years. During this time though, David and his people became increasingly stronger, the people who followed Ishbaal became weaker. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, two of Ishbaal’s own officers assassinated him thinking they would thus curry favor with David. Instead, their plan backfired and David ordered their execution.

That takes care of the “previously” part of the text, setting the stage for today’s reading when representatives of the eleven other tribes of Israel go to Hebron to anoint David for a third time, this time as their king so now David is ruler over all twelve tribes. Important to note is that the representatives who anointed David recognized the Lord’s hand in this, saying to David, “The Lord said to you, ‘It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.’” The story is never just about David; the Lord is always a factor. These verses from Second Samuel are generally understood as being the end of the “rise of David” narrative. At this point God’s promises have been kept and the enemies have all been overcome. The shepherd boy has now become the shepherd king.

The term shepherd is familiar of course; the Lord is my shepherd in the 23rd Psalm and Jesus as the Good Shepherd probably being its most familiar uses but there are many more. Important to remember though is that the primary requirement of the good shepherd is that the good shepherd exists for the sake of the sheep, for the sake of their well being. In contrast, a bad shepherd acts as if the sheep exist for his own well being and profit. In using this term as they anoint David, the elders of the people have in mind that David will use his gifts and power on behalf of and for the sake of the community.

The mention of covenant supports this; “King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord.” The specifics of the covenant are not mentioned in the text but it’s not a reach to conclude that limited power is suggested. This isn’t a blank check of dictatorial power for David but instead, as he is anointed, on the one hand his role as a good shepherd who cares for the sheep is implied and on the other hand, the loyalty of the people who anointed him is also implied. There is a framework of mutuality, a framework that isn’t just about ancient Israel but which continues to exist in many forms of government, a framework that works as long as both covenant partners hold up their end of things. History however tells us that it doesn’t always happen. If it did, there wouldn’t have been a big parade and fireworks last Wednesday and we’d still be singing “God Save the Queen” rather than “My Country, Tis of Thee.”

The last verse of today’s reading says, “And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts was with him.” Again there are no details; it doesn’t say what greater and greater means, whether it’s has to do with personal popularity or military victories or whatever, but more important than the specifics of David’s greatness is the reason for it, the reason being…because the Lord, the God of hosts was with him. Again, the Lord is a factor, the main factor.

In looking for the truth of this story as it pertains to us, it’s in this verse that says that the Lord was with David that we find it. The phrase “I am with you,” is one that echoes throughout the Bible, a phrase that is at the heart of the gospel, the good news. In the book of Exodus, Moses was full of excuses as to why he could not and should not be the one to challenge Pharaoh and lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, but the Lord said, “I will be with you.” When Jeremiah resisted being called as a prophet because he was only a boy, the Lord said, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you to deliver you.”

When the angel appeared to Mary to announce that she would give birth to Jesus, he said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you,” and of course in Mathew, the birth of Jesus was announced with words from the prophet Isaiah, “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel” which means, “God is with us.” At the end of Matthew, Jesus’ last words were “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

For those who hear with faithful imagination, these words “I am with you,” are words of assurance that tell us that we’re never alone. Covenant is implied here too, but unlike the covenant between David and the elders of Israel in which conditions seemed to be part of it, this one is unconditional, it’s all on God. What that means, is that for David, flawed though he was, and for us, flawed though we may be, God refuses to give up on us but instead is with us granting us forgiveness and new opportunities. Forgiveness is part of “I am with you.”

Empowerment is another part of “I am with you.” For people like David and Moses and Jeremiah and Mary and others, they were faced with challenges they didn’t think they were up to. But…empowered by “I am with you,” they met the challenges. We also receive this promise of strength and encouragement to do what we have to do, challenges we may not think we’re up to. That last verse from Matthew, “Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age,” is one that is read at every ordination and I’ve said before that when I was ordained, it’s that verse and the promise that comes with it that really hit me, a verse that for me continues to provide encouragement: I am with you.

For any of us, the reality of this “I am with you” promise begins with baptism when we are named as children of God and marked with the cross of Christ forever. We are reminded of the promise when we celebrate Holy Communion and hear the words, “Given for you, shed for you,” spoken to each of us individually. The reality of “for you” may not hit you every time, but when you most need to hear it, the words are there that tell you that Christ is truly present “for you,” in the elements of bread and wine. You can taste and touch and smell, “I am with you.”

Today’s reading from Second Samuel does mark the end of the “Rise of David” narrative but it can also be seen as the beginning of new possibilities for the people of Israel through David and through the establishment of Jerusalem as the City of David. As always though, those possibilities were based on the promise of God’s presence, the promise of “I am with you.” For David and the people of Israel, the story had a long way to go and wouldn’t really reach fulfillment until the birth of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. Even with that, while the future was revealed in and through Jesus, the story is still not over, but continues to be played out in our lives always with the promise, “I am with you.”

Rev. Warren Geier


Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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