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Friday, June 25, 2010

Hero Behaviors

If you're a Christian, my guess is that, like me, you have some Bible heroes. They're the characters in the Bible whom you admire. You've read about their activities, life, decisions and circumstances. And you've concluded that they exhibited virtues worth pursuing. Ruth is often mentioned, especially by women. Abraham, Moses and David are also favorites of many.

Sometimes I think these heroes have more to teach us than simply what a virtue looks like. One of my all time favorites is King David. (He was King Solomon's father.) God called him "a man after my own heart." Ironically, the Bible is replete with stories of his sin, weaknesses and mistakes. Though he loved his children, for example, he was a pretty miserable father. He didn't discipline his children and paid a dear price for that. There was a lot of family dysfunction in David's household.

But David exhibited some other things. Recently I was drawn to the story in 2 Samuel 16:5-14. One of David's sons, Absalom, was trying to overthrow him as king and seize control of the country. (And you think you've had problems with your adult children!) Anyway, David was fleeing the country to save his skin. As he approached Bahurim, this guy called Shimei starts stalking David.

Shimei curses King David loudly and repeatedly as they go. He pelts David and all his officials with stones. He yells at David and calls him scoundrel. He tells David that he deserves God's punishment for his bad behaviors. He mocks David, telling him that he's come to ruin because of the way he's lived. It's an ugly scene. David's getting no respect from this man. And though David and his officials are hot and tired, they're getting no pity from this man either.

So what's really curious about this is King David's reaction. Most of us would quite naturally have some sort of reaction to stop the harassment. Perhaps I might have said something like, "Listen here, chump ... do you know who I am? Keep messing with me and - when I get back on my throne - you're gonna pay for this dearly! Now buzz off!" But of course, King David was more virtuous than I am. Let's look at what he did.

First off, the king's officials were prepared to smite, or at least rebuke Shimei for what he was doing. But David's rationale surprised them. He said, "My son, who is of my own flesh, is trying to take my life. How much more than, this (man)? Leave him alone; let him curse, for perhaps the Lord has told him to."

Are you kidding me? King David, you would serious allow room for the possibility that the adversity coming from this man was of the Lord?

Then King David continues, "It may be that the Lord will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today." And the Bible tells us that David and his officials continued on their way - with Shimei on the other side of the road, continuing to curse and throw stones at them, and even showering them with dirt!

David understood the notion that vengeance belongs to the Lord. He exhibited massive restraint here. Certainly he and his officials could have whipped this guy's butt; but they didn't. Why is that? Do you think David really believed it was possible God told this dude to curse and throw rocks and dirt at David, harassing him as he fled for his life from out deranged son? Do you think that David really believed God would look on him with favor for having endured such an imposition?

I'm not one to question King David's motives. Certainly there's evidence that he did enough of that himself. But knowing what I know of King David, I'm pretty sure that whether or not he believed either of these things ... he was willing to allow for the possibility of either or both of them.

While David was fleeing for his life - and being harassed - he was willing to consider the possibility that he may have done something to deserve it and/or that God might be trying to use the circumstance(s) to get his attention about something. In addition, David was willing to see himself as a total victim for no good reason - and believe that God would settle that score in His perfect timing and in His perfect way.

Could you or I take such positions when we are faced with ridiculous circumstances? I gotta tell ya, if one of my kids is trying to kill me and take over my empire - and while running for my life I find myself being harassed and accused unfairly, that is probably not going to be my first response! Quite frankly, I imagine it would not be the first response of most human beings.

To be sure, King David was an extraordinary human being. But beyond his heroic actions, foolish sins, and heartwarming cycles of repentance, I think God uses him for more than just to each us things. I believe God uses Biblical heroes like King David to ask us pertinent questions about ourselves.

"My child, are you really willing to accept my discipline and correction in your life? Are you really willing to suffer through today's circumstances ... hanging your hat on the belief that in the end I will make all things right?"

Those are the questions that God asks through King David when I read my Bible. What kinds of questions might God be asking you? And through whom does He ask those questions?

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