1st and 2nd Samuel

Here’s some background info on the book we’ll be reading from on Sunday:

In the books of 1st and 2nd Samuel, we see the shift of Israel from a nebulous, largely tribal group of people toward a more organized monarchy. The people of Israel demand a king, and although God, through Samuel, warns them that having a king will be like being back in slavery in Egypt, they persist and God appoints Saul to be king of Israel. Later, when Saul proves to be a failed leader, God sends Samuel to anoint David as king, and rescues David from Saul’s jealous anger. All of this is taking place in the midst of Israel beginning to war against and defeat its enemies.

1st and 2nd Samuel were a single book initially, but were divided after the book was translated into Greek. It’s unclear exactly who wrote the books, but scholars think that the book comes from the hand of many different people with varying points of view about Samuel, Saul, David, and the monarchy. The material was collected and edited in stages, with perhaps the longest part coming some time after the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians in 721 BCE.

In 2nd Samuel, God makes a covenant with David and his house, and this unconditional, steadfast love is the foundation of Israel’s hope in God for salvation. King David is called “beloved of God” and a man “after God’s own heart,” but David is certainly not without his flaws, as we will hear on Sunday. Royal power does corrupt, as Samuel warned earlier, and David is no exception. Treachery, violence, a military buildup, and family power struggles are all parts of the story; this is one of the great soap operas of the Bible. Most telling is David’s arranged murder of Uriah, to cover up his adultery with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. David takes Bathsheba, and sleeps with her. She becomes pregnant, and to cover this up, sends Uriah to the front lines of battle where he will assuredly be killed.

This is David at his worst, but, more importantly, it is God at God’s best. David is punished by God, but the unconditional covenant holds. God will not be stopped by human sin; God’s steadfast love continues.

All of these stories underscore the ability of God to work through ordinary and unassuming, but, most importantly, flawed, people and means to bring about extraordinary change. These stories invite us to think about our own place in this larger narrative. How might God be working through ordinary, flawed people, like you and me, to bring about extraordinary transformation?

And that’s where we’ll pick up on Sunday…

See you in church!

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