Monday, August 30, 2010

Why the Incarnation Matters: David and Solomon

When we reach the entrance of David, we enter another great turning point in salvation history. Just as the fear of Adam and Eve caused sin and death, the fear of the nations caused Israel foolishly to demand a King. As was noted, their first choice was a failure before God and even the people. God decides now to choose one “after His own heart” and finds the young David. What makes David’s entrance into history so powerful?

We must first note who has brought David into the scene. Most autocracies (as in the rule supremely by one) either worked through a direct succession of family members, or through their hand-picked successors (the early Roman Empire operated this way, where future Caesars were “adopted” into the family of the current ruler), or via coup d'├ętat.  At the time of his calling, David was neither of royal blood, or a hand-picked successor by Saul. He becomes a forerunner of Christ at this very anointing. He is anointed King not by the flesh (via royal blood), nor by the will of man (through the current sovereign’s desires or a coup), but of God.

He is also contrasted by Saul in the manner of the heart. When God gave the Israelites Saul, one could almost interpret it as “you want it, you’ll get it, and you will like it.” They were so hung up on external appearances (we wish to be like the nations), God gave them a king of grandiose external appearances, but little else. Just like their ancestors, they lusted after the external, and found it was nothing that they thought it would be.
Since David was God’s choice, God shows through His selection how all future Kings should act. God looks not on the externals, but the heart. Indeed, David was the least impressive of his brothers. Yet God chose David above his brothers, for God could see that David loved, and would always love God.

Also evident is the understanding of obedience in David that is superior to Saul. He understands that Saul is King, and he is not to attempt to supplant Saul. On the contrary, he offers himself into Saul’s service. He becomes a court musician, then soldier, then a great general of Saul’s army, carrying Saul’s wishes throughout the then growing kingdom of Israel. When Saul becomes jealous and seeks to have him killed, David does not seek revenge. This is taken to what could even be viewed a comical extreme when David takes something from Saul, simply to prove to him he could have killed him but chose not to. Later in his life when Saul dies, he slays the one who killed him.

Even more important is the attitude of David once he sins. The power of the King is a very intoxicating power, and eventually David succumbs to it. Desiring another man’s wife, now King David has an affair with her, and then sends her husband on a suicide mission so nobody can find out or take revenge. Once he realizes how gravely he has sinned, he does not attempt to do as Saul did in offering holocaust after holocaust. Rather, the sacrifice offered is David’s broken heart and body, pleading for forgiveness. Through these traits, despite some setbacks, the Kingdom of Israel flourished under David. The people of God were returning to their initial calling in the Garden of Eden, being stewards of all the Earth.

The Entrance of King Solomon

One of the problems we have noticed so far in salvation history is that while there are certainly righteous individuals, that righteousness seldom extends to those who come after them. In the eyes of the orthodox Jew of that time, one could not fault them for thinking this pattern would be broken. Solomon succeeded his father King David, and had dealt with all of the court intrigue that typically surrounds a young kingdom. He demonstrated great wisdom that the world traveled to see, and he built the magnificent Temple.

Through Solomon the world was learning about God. While politically he made many city-states his vassals, he also exposed them to the worship of the One True God. His influence was truly starting to expand throughout the entire region. Piece by piece he expanded his empire. We see here the initial call of Adam and Eve to rule all creation in God’s name.

Yet like his first parents, Solomon had a downfall. One could surmise that it was the pride of his first parents. Solomon was the wisest of his age, and one of the most powerful kings, accustomed to beauty wherever he went. So accustomed was he to this beauty, he began seeking it out everywhere, including within the women of pagan nations. This presented some obvious problems.

In Israel, only Yahweh was worshipped, only He was God. Yet the pagan women Solomon wed obviously still wanted to worship their own gods. Solomon felt he had to still marry them. These were political marriages, and he needed them to grow his stature. Even if divorce was acceptable as a concession, he could not divorce and lose his power. First, he built houses for his wife (then the daughter of the Egyptian Pharaoh), and we do know that worship of those pagan deities happened at these houses.

Like all good men, Solomon had a desire to please his wife. Yet unlike a good man, he did not know how to temper that desire with prudence. Most importantly, he did not lead his wife in serving God. In this instance, his sin was very much like that of Adam’s. Several Church Fathers placed on Adam not only the sin of eating of the fruit, but for allowing his wife to be seduced by the serpent, rather than being there to defend her.
From this small crack in the armor things began to shatter. Not content with just one wife, Solomon takes polygamy to an entire new level. He amasses for himself over 700 wives and 300 concubines. As time went on, his “concessions” to these women grew even more, until eventually pagan temples started appearing within Jerusalem itself. Solomon, he of great wisdom, had turned into a man of absolute perversion, sexually and religiously. Bad as things were, they were about to become much worse.

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