Friday, July 16, 2010

2 Samuel 10-12: Bare Beards and Buttocks

"From Garden to City" reading:  2 Samuel 10-12

So David pays his respects to the son of the Ammonite king after the king dies, and the son freaks out because just maybe David has actually sent the men as spies.  And so they shave off half of each man's beard and then "cut off their garments in the middle at the buttocks" and send them away.

I'm thinking these guys looked pretty funny.
It sounds like fraternity pranks, except that David takes it totally seriously and starts a war in which thousands of men from both sides lose their lives.

Now I'm pretty sure I'm missing the cultural ramifications of shaving off beards and exposing the backsides of David's men, but really?

The Ammonite king humiliated the men and by extension David, but he didn't hurt them.
David's strictly fighting for honor here.

And basically, we see Samuel's prophecy about kings and kingdoms fulfilled once again:  "This is the way the king of king you're talking about operates.  He'll take your sons and make soldiers of them--chariotry, infantry, regimented in battalions and squadrons.  He'll put some to forced labor on his farms, plowing and harvesting, and others to making either weapons of war or chariots in which he can ride in luxury . .  ."
(1 Samuel 8:10-18).

And this whole episode, this fight for honor, this unnecessary loss of life to avenge shaved beards and bared buttocks sets up the scene in which David stays behind in battle, sleeps with Bathsheba, and then murders her husband Uriah.

We don't see David asking the Lord whether he should go to war.
We don't see David asking God whether or not he will successful.
We don't see David seeking godly counsel.

We see David defending the honor of Israel, fighting for his own respect as a king and a commander--without the blessing of God.

In the battle against the Ammonites, it looks like David won.
In the war for honor and respect, with his family and even his people, apparently he lost.
Nothing is ever the same again.

And I've never heard any of this in a sermon before so maybe I'm a little bit off, but I think it's worth saying that the minute we become more concerned with our honor than with God's honor, and more preoccupied with the way people treat us than we are with the way we treat others, or treat God, we put ourselves and our future at risk.

And when we get so obsessed with asserting our rights, personal, political, or economic, that we stop seeking godly counsel or asking God whether or not he wants us to fight for them, we risk losing his grace.

Humility before man . . . humility before God.
Love and mercy.

Micah 6:8
O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
      and this is what he requires of you:
   to do what is right, to love mercy,
      and to walk humbly with your God.

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