A Better David

1 Samuel 18:6-16.
As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated,

“Saul has struck down his thousands,
    and David his ten thousands.”

And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” And Saul eyed David from that day on. 

The next day a harmful spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand. And Saul hurled the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David evaded him twice.

Saul was afraid of David because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. So Saul removed him from his presence and made him a commander of a thousand. And he went out and came in before the people. And David had success in all his undertakings, for the Lord was with him. And when Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in fearful awe of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, for he went out and came in before them.

—–

Saul is jealous and he is clinging to his power. God is working through someone else, David, and people are recognizing it. Saul cannot let that be. So he tries to kill David, but David evades Saul and is kept safe.

I am reminded of another Saul. This was is also from the tribe of Benjamin. Just like Saul the king tried to kill David, so this other Saul was trying to kill the Davidic king, but he must be struck down (Acts 9:3-5; Gal. 2:20). Saul the king is clinging to power. The other Saul must learn to boast in weakness (2 Cor. 11:16-12:10). But we should have already known that Judah would offer himself as a substitute for Benjamin (Gen. 44).

Saul the king was the forerunner for king David. Here we should think of another forerunner. He was God’s prophet, speaking God’s truth, and amassing followers. But he was just preparing the way, and he knew it. Saul the king tries to cling desprately to power and fame, the other forerunner is faithful even unto denying himself, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

God unmasks all of our idolatries about power and fame. These kingdoms of mudpies always end, but is it an ending that we resist or one that we embrace?

“Come, take up your cross, and follow me.”

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Distribution of Numbers in Numbers 1

So Numbers 1 includes a census list. I was reading through it and noticed that there seems to be some grouping of numbers, so I decided to write it all out here so that it is some place. I will not be considering the last two digits of the numbers since the numbers come in distributions of 50 and so the last number will always be 0 and the second to last number will always be 0 or 5.

Let’s look at the distribution of the first digit. We are separating this since it cannot be a 0 and so it must fall within the 1-9 range.
1 = 0
2 = 0
3 = 2
4 = 4
5 = 4
6 = 1
7 = 1
8 = 0
9 = 0

So there is definitely a clustering in the first digit. This might be somewhat expected as one might hypothesize that the tribes were around the same sizes (although note that the firstborns are listed at 22,273 (3:43)–significant both because of its distribution of numbers and the fact that it does not round to the nearest 50, which makes sense in the context).

Now let’s look at the rest of the digits and see where they fall (again, excluding the final two):
0 = 1
1 = 1
2 = 3
3 = 2
4 = 6
5 = 5
6 = 3
7 = 2
8 = 0
9 = 1

We can see here that the numbers are not evenly distributed. There are 24 different numbers with 10 possible results (0-9), so one would expect 2.4 as the average per number. Yet four of the numbers have 0 or 1 as a result. On the other end of the spectrum, 4 comes in at six and 5 comes in at 5.

Now, whether all of this is significant or not and, if so, how it is significant, I am not sure. Nonetheless, the results are worth noting.

There are other interesting questions about the census (who could imagine!) that I might get around to later.

Awake, O Sleeper (Ps. 3)

Intro if you haven’t read it.

Lord, how many are my foes!
    Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
    “There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
    my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah

I lay down and slept;
    I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
    who have set themselves against me all around.

Arise, O Lord!
    Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
    you break the teeth of the wicked.

Salvation belongs to the Lord;
    your blessing be on your people! Selah

The words of Jesus, when he was pursued by Israel, his son.

His foes are many. They encompass him like bulls of bashan. They are all around him. From the religious elites who do not want to be challenged by his word to the Roman ruler who cannot be bothered with social justice to the stranger in his midst who sold him for 30 pieces of silver. We all have gone astray. Do not speak your word, do not call us to justice, do not make us choose you over our god mammon. We hear you coming and we hide. You cry for us, “where are you?” For you have continually held your hands out to a wayward people, your hands being held out by being stretched on a tree.

We rise against you. Who shall ascend the mount of the LORD? We shall and in the process we will crucify the LORD himself. While we rise against you, you rise above it. While our passions rise and angers flare, your love is constant. We say, “there is no salvation for him in God.” We hope not because that would mean salvation for us and salvation always makes a claim. Salvation delivers by exposing and triumphing over the unjust powers. Go say to Pharaoh. Let Babylon know. Tell it to America. But in the process salvation exposes us. “Who told you that you were naked?” Our sin is our nakedness and you expose it all, and we recoil from the light.

But for him, the LORD is a shield. The LORD is his glory. The LORD is the lifter of his head. He cries and the LORD answers. He answers from his holy hill. He answers in his reign. He answers because of who he is.

Yet he lays down and sleeps. This is the explanation of the LORD’s faithful: Jesus’ death. The LORD is his shield, so it is by their good grace and love that he dies. The LORD is his glory, so it is because of their faithfulness that he dies. The LORD is the lifter of his head, so his head is lifted in bearing his crown, the crown of thorns. So he lays down and sleeps because he dies. He really dies. He takes his last breaths and he is laid in a tomb. Awake o Sleeper, and shine upon us.

And he really awoke again. He was really raised from the dead. The grave could hold him no more. The laments over death and hell become provocations because he now holds the keys. He descended and so he triumphed. He died and so he lives, and so he gives life. The LORD raised him up.

Therefore he is not afraid of the multitudes. He is not afraid of the devil or death or hell. He is not afraid of any of it, for he has conquered. Our shouts of “crucify” do not scare him but he lovingly embraces them. His arms are stretched out to embrace those who have been alienated. We tried to exclude him and he embraces us. He takes in the sins of the world and transforms them. He is not afraid, so we can cry to him.

From crucifixion to death to resurrection. From hoping there is no salvation for him to him being our salvation. All of our schemes are rebuffed. All of our plans are part of his. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” And love did that. The embodiment of love, Jesus Christ. And so we cry out, “arise!” He has risen. “O LORD!” He is God in the flesh. “Save me!” He has died to bring the new creation. “O my God!” Finally we understand.

For God strikes our enemies on the cheek. That is, God takes our beatings. “Tell us who is beating you, if you are a prophet.” Our enemy in our eyes has always been God and he responds to our beatings with “here’s the other one.” He takes and transforms our violence. He bears and redeems our sins. Salvation belongs to him and his blessing is upon his covenant people for we are called to take up our cross and follow him.

Selah.

Kiss the Son (Ps. 2)

If you have not read the intro, I suggest doing so before continuing on.

Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
    and cast away their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs;

    the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
    and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
    and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
    and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
    be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
    lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
    for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (ESV)

It is natural to read this Psalm eschatologically. Christ will rule and will reign and will have the nations as his heritage and the earth as his possession. What would it look like to read this Psalm in terms of what Jesus has already accomplished?

The rulers and the kings plot against God and his Christ. They rage, plot, set themselves against, take counsel together. All of this is against God and against his Messiah. But the first verse tips us off. It is in vain. Why is this? I suppose the easy answer would be to say that God is in control or God has a plan through it all or God will end up using their evil schemes in order to accomplish his good plans. There’s something right about all of this. I think there’s also something wrong.

What is their plan? To burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us. To see the Messiah is to see God for the Messiah is the embodiment of God. There is no right understanding of God apart from Jesus and no right understanding of Jesus apart from God. To see Jesus is to see God and to see God is to see Jesus. How should we understand God/Jesus then?

Their goal is to rebel against God and the Messiah’s way. Their plans are from of old: starting in a beautiful garden, running through a jealous brother, a rebellious world, a chosen nation, a holy priesthood, a people called out of darkness into light so that they would declare his praises. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12, ESV)

It’s a perverted sense of freedom. Claiming to be unshackled, unmoored from the benevolent Creating and Redeeming God they have become slaves. Wishing to be alive they have come to serve death. Wishing to be rulers they have become servants. For it is only in serving that we are free. His yoke is easy and his burden is light and all who take it upon themselves will find rest. Not rest in the sense of doing nothing, but rest in the sense of being right where you are supposed to be. To be at home with God, other humans, ourselves, and creation (those alienated others) for the first time. To find that service here, or, let us use the terminology prevalent in the New Testament, to find that being a slave to God in Christ means that we are finally free.

God laughs and holds them in derision. The point is that God is confounding them. Their triumph is really their downfall. This goes back to what’s wrong with seeing this as simply God being in control or using this. It’s not that God is in control and will use even this evil for good: it’s that precisely in their rebelling God is triumphing. There is no lag between the two: the events are one and the same.

For God speaks in his wrath and terrifies them with his fury. Why? What does he say? “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” Do not miss the point: the height of their rebellion and the triumph of God is precisely God’s King being set on Zion, God’s holy hill. The triumph of God and thus the King is the crucifixion of Jesus.

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15, ESV) Lifted up in crucifixion and lifted up in glory. What Mark whispers John shouts: Jesus’ glory is seen in His crucifixion.

And this is exactly where the kings and the rulers think they have triumphed. This is where God laughs because their destruction is His restoration. Their damnation is His salvation. Their condemnation is His reconciliation. “None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Cor. 2:8, ESV) “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Col. 2:15, ESV)

Because Jesus is the Father’s Chosen One, wholly beloved, the firstborn of the new creation, and the one who inherits the nations. The language is not unintentional: the nations become His heritage and the ends of the earth His possession. This Crucified Man is the Incarnate God. He comes to do what Adam and Eve were called to do (Gen. 1:27-28), what they failed to do, what Israel failed to do. He comes to be the last Adam, the wholly faithful one, righteous unto death and crushing the head of the serpent.

He breaks their power through being slain. He overthrows them by dying on a cross. He makes them a public spectacle by enduring public shame. With the offer of kingdoms before Him through taking up the sword, He takes up the cross and does not resist the evildoer. He breaks them because He is willing to have His body broken for us. He dashes them into pieces because His obedience is complete, faithful to death with a crucified but whole body so that He might redeem the whole creation.

So kiss the Son. Take refuge in Him. Only in Him are we made whole. Only in following Him in bearing our cross are we united. The way of Jesus Christ is one way: the way of self-sacrificial love that renounces all temptations to power and prestige in humble adoration of the Crucified One.

Behold the Man! (Ps. 1)

If you have not read the intro, I suggest you do so before carrying on.

Blessed is the man
     who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
     nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
     and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
     planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
     and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
     but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
     nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
     but the way of the wicked will perish. (ESV)

Psalm 1 sits here oddly. It reads much more like something we would find in one of the discourse section of Proverbs. After all, it is not a prayer and is more about instruction. And yet it sits here and its placement is intentional. It serves, with Ps. 2, as an introduction to the book as a whole, a point we will return to below.

The man is blessed. He flourishes. He is in right relation with God and the created order. This man enjoys the good life. But what does that life look like?

The man does not walk, stand, or sit with sinners. The progression might seem backwards. We might think that walking is worse than sitting, but the opposite is actually the case. The man does not make a decision based on the counsel of the sinful. They say not to eat with the tax collectors and the outcasts, but He came to call sinners to repentance. He does not make a way of life of those who try to ruin lives. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, they advise; but He turns the other cheek and His arms are stretched out. He does not come together to plot with those who are trying to tear lives apart. They say that the sinners should not touch Him, but His touch cleanses the impure, heals the sick, and forgives sins.

For this man delights in the law of the Lord. It is to the Lord that he looks for instruction. “Not my will, but Yours be done,” He says. God’s instruction becomes His meditation. It becomes the center of His life, the compass for His direction, the story He inhabits. “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)

This Man is like a tree. The imagery is important and connects with Jer. 17:5-8. Making the connection we see that the tree imagery is about being rooted in the land for the good of the world. The dust is driven out of the land, exiled, and not good for anything. This Man is rooted. He is faithful to God above all else. No matter where He goes, God is there. Where Israel has failed, Jesus fulfills. Where Israel faltered, Jesus bears up. Where Israel fell, Jesus rises. He is obedient and so He is like this tree bearing fruit for the good of the world. He is like a tree because His obedience leads Him to be crucified on one.

The wicked will not stand in the judgment. Neither does this man. The Sin Bearing One does not stand, He is fastened to a cross. He does not hold His head high, but hangs His head in loving obedience. He is not wicked and punished by God, but wicked in the eyes of the world and therefore left staggering under the cross He was called to carry. For they did not understand or else they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. For this is God’s glory, this is God’s revelation, this is God in the flesh, the fullest expression of who God is: a Crucified Man.

But the Lord knows the way of the righteous. God knows Jesus is obedient. God knows He has come to bear the sins of Israel and the whole world, to deliver people from alienation, to bring the abundant life which entails bearing one’s cross. God knows the way of the righteous, the way of the Humble One, His own way of self-giving love. God knows, when the world seems to say otherwise.

And this way will endure forever. This way is God’s new thing, God’s new creation by which He is redeeming the world and will redeem it finally. The way of the wicked, the proud, the graceless, the self-righteous, the crucifiers, the ones who did not stand up for the wrongly condemned, this way will perish. For that present sinful reality is fading away because Jesus has been lifted up for all to see so that they may be saved. The Light of the World will grow brighter, for darkness cannot overcome the light. Look to the Crucified One. Turn to Him and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for He is God and there is no other.

Psalm 1 as an introduction to the book as a whole now comes to the forefront. Psalm 1 tells us what it looks like to read Psalms. Seen this way, only those who see Jesus in the Psalms are worthy to enter in. The right reader of the Psalms is the one who sees a man crucified on a tree. No other reading will be allowed. Psalm 1 tells us that the Psalms demand our attention and worship of this man, Jesus of Nazareth; no other posture but bowed reverence is acceptable.

So who is the righteous man? “Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals. And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain.” (Rev. 5:5-6)

The conquering Lion is the slain Lamb.