Acts 13: 22 (NIV)
“Up to the time of Samuel the prophet, God provided judges to lead them. But then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul, son of Kish, out of the tribe of Benjamin. After Saul had ruled forty years, God removed him from office and put King David in his place, with this commendation: ‘I’ve searched the land and found this David, son of Jesse. He’s a man whose heart beats to my heart, a man who will do what I tell him.’
Like Ruth (and Naomi), David’s heart pulsated with an unyielding and unquenchable Hope. While grief birthed and an active and responsive pursuit grew this Hope in Ruth, David’s Hope was deposited in His heart by the Spirit of God as a child. Then, it was grown in and through the breaking of his heart.
David’s suffering ranges from mental to emotional to physical brokenness. From the moment he is anointed as King, he faces human ridicule. Then, when he reaches adulthood he is forced to live on the run and even when he comes out of hiding, he continually faces either mental torment or physical oppression, even from his own son, who tries to kill him, and his trusted men, who embittered by their grief and loss, threaten to stone him. His heart is continually broken, as he is relentlessly forced to his knees.
And yet, the Psalms of David, as soaked as they are in brokenness and despair, are also bursting to the seams with Hope. Every single time, David, though his heart is being torn to shreds and his human spirit sapped to the last drop, gathers all his remaining strength to incline his heart away from his circumstances to the Hope that tethers him. This unseen Rock acts as a Strength that sustains and leads him forward, despite, or perhaps precisely because of the inward groaning of his soul.
Psalm 119: 81 – 96
I’m homesick—longing for your salvation;
I’m waiting for your word of hope.
My eyes grow heavy watching for some sign of your promise;
how long must I wait for your comfort?
There’s smoke in my eyes—they burn and water,
but I keep a steady gaze on the instructions you post.
How long do I have to put up with all this?
How long till you haul my tormentors into court?
The arrogant godless try to throw me off track,
ignorant as they are of God and his ways.
Everything you command is a sure thing,
but they harass me with lies. Help!
They’ve pushed and pushed—they never let up—
but I haven’t relaxed my grip on your counsel.
In your great love revive me
so I can alertly obey your every word.
What you say goes, God,
and stays, as permanent as the heavens.
Your truth never goes out of fashion;
it’s as up-to-date as the earth when the sun comes up.
Your Word and truth are dependable as ever;
that’s what you ordered—you set the earth going.
If your revelation hadn’t delighted me so,
I would have given up when the hard times came.
But I’ll never forget the advice you gave me;
you saved my life with those wise words.
Save me! I’m all yours.
I look high and low for your words of wisdom.
The wicked lie in ambush to destroy me,
but I’m only concerned with your plans for me.
I see the limits to everything human,
but the horizons can’t contain your commands!
Some of us may look at David, however, and see a man who “needs breaking”. For David was a man corrupted by evil. His life is riddled with horrendous acts: adultery and murder being among the sins he committed. We can be quick to look at him and place ourselves on a pedestal, patting ourselves on the back or feeling that we must either protect our families from the faithless world around us or make the faithless see the error of their ways. We, of course, have after all not committed such awful acts and are of course incapable of them. Or are we?
In Matthew 5 (The Message) Jesus tells us:
21 – 22
“You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.
27 – 28
“You know the next commandment pretty well, too: ‘Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.’ But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt.
33 – 37
“And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.
38 – 42
“Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at [him].” And what would our response be? We too would drop the stones at our feet.
Psalm 51 (The Message)
A David Psalm, After He Was Confronted by Nathan About the Affair with Bathsheba
1-3 Generous in love—God, give grace!
Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I’ve been;
my sins are staring me down.
4-6 You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen
it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
You have all the facts before you;
whatever you decide about me is fair.
I’ve been out of step with you for a long time,
in the wrong since before I was born.
What you’re after is truth from the inside out.
Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.
7-15 Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don’t look too close for blemishes,
give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don’t throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
I’ll let loose with your praise.
16-17 Going through the motions doesn’t please you,
a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship
when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.
18-19 Make Zion the place you delight in,
repair Jerusalem’s broken-down walls.
Then you’ll get real worship from us,
acts of worship small and large,
Including all the bulls
they can heave onto your altar!
David, you see, was a man “after God’s own heart” because he allowed suffering to break his pride and incline his heart toward God. He openly admitted his brokenness of sin and grief before God, as he cried out in contrite conviction, anger, frustration, grief and despair, but remained tethered to Hope because he allowed the pouring out to cut him down to size and lift up his arms and spirit in praise of God. He embraced the Spirit of Truth within him, even when this truth cut him to the bone. Like Jesus, he wept profusely, but then relinquished his fleshly desires to the will of God.
Father God, I feel you breaking my heart, but I also feel my body, mind and soul pressing the pieces back together again, placing a bandaid over it, so I can carry on as before. Lord, and yet I know this breaking is in your will to tether me more tightly to You, Our Living Hope. Father God, I pray that you would open the eyes of my heart to my brokenness of sin and prideful control and to my desperate need for You. Let this break open my heart and pour out all that is within it, to incline it to You. Let it lead me to release my human inclination to protect and determine and to embrace Your unforced rhythms of grace and unclenching love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.