David and Saul

An odd thought hit me yesterday regarding the story of David’s ‘interaction’ with Saul after their falling out. Previously, I’ve viewed David’s actions as an almost unattainable example of Christian humility and submission to God’s lawful authority. And I still think that viewpoint has much to offer. Though I haven’t read the story in some time, for some reason a pattern sort of leapt to mind yesterday that paints a somewhat different view. Before I briefly spell it out, let’s first look at the straightforward Christian Submission viewpoint and see how it plays out.

Stuart: So John, I hear your pastor is requiring you to tie little bells in your hair and dance on stage for the Christmas pageant.

John: Yeah, and I really don’t like the idea. But what am I to do? He’s my pastor.

Stuart: Right. And after all, look how submissive David was when Saul was actually trying to kill him.

Stuart: You’re right. Here, can you help me tie tiny braids in my hair for the bells?

Sounds nice. But here’s the issue. It isn’t like David painted a target on his chest so Saul would stop missing with the spears. He fled. And before long, he was roaming around the countryside with an armed company stealing food. And those times he could have killed Saul but didn’t, it isn’t like he just sneaked off. He flaunted his mercy to Saul, forcing Saul to say all kinds of nice things about David in front of his army. David owned Saul by not killing him. And he helped Saul play the madman in front of his troops.

That does not smack of the particular flavor of submission that I have typically seen David’s example used to require from Christians in challenging situations that involve God-ordained authority figures misusing their power. Have I forgotten some critical portion of the story, or am I on to something here?

The Public Word

I was cleaning out some ‘stuff’ and had to sort through some remaining tapes that hadn’t yet been weeded out. Among them were the tapes from the main speaker, Tommy Nelson, at the 1991 CCC Christmas Conference in Dallas. One of the five tapes was titled something along the lines of “The Priority of a Private Passion”. I can’t remember the first couple words (though I’m sure there was a ‘P’ in there for alliteration), but the last couple words stood out. I remember the talk. It was all about the preeminence of a daily quiet time if one wanted to walk with the Lord. The speaker even explained how, in 17 years, he had only missed one quiet time, and it was because of the crazy schedule he had to keep at a camp. When he realized he hadn’t had one that day, the boys he was with in the cabin were already asleep, so he called to mind some chapters of the Bible he had memorized as a poor substitute for his QT.

Now, the day before I saw this tape, during the small group I lead at our home, someone had asked me to explain if private devotions or hearing the preached word was more important. I had no idea what to say, and then, strangely, I realized the answer was actually very straightforward. I asked the group if there was any one thing that the Bible emphasized as a daily activity with regard to learning/interacting with scripture. The answer is to talk about it (see Deut 6). When you get up, when you go out, when you come in, etc. Talk about it. Was this emphasis simply a result of the fact that Deuteronomy predates the printing press? I doubt it. And that brings us to the public/private distinction.

The input from scripture about scripture tends to put it in a public context. This is not to say there are not private goals (hide it in your heart so you don’t sin), but most of the input is driven at a public context. Know the Word so you can give a ready answer. Talk about it all the time. Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training. And on and on. The gifts given to the church are to drive the public use of scripture (preaching, teaching, etc). This public dynamic is in the context of the church, a community, rather than set against the backdrop of an individual’s quest for personal improvement. The Word is to benefit the body of Christ.

By approaching the topic in this manner, the emphasis on the preached Word begins to make sense. Our goal is not to privately appropriate the scriptures as an individual effort. Rather, the scriptures, just like the one faith and one loaf and one baptism, build a community. The individual, private sanctification takes place in a corporate context. And from a practical level, this makes a lot of sense. Want to form a cult? Just go study the Bible in complete isolation for 10 years and you should be ready.

Public versus Private

By using the categories of public versus private instead of, for example, subjective versus objective, I’m finding it much easier to get my head around some ideas that had previously eluded me. More on this later. For now, I need some sleep.

Christmas music

For an eclectic addition to your Christmas music collection, might I suggest Christmas Eve & Other Stories by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra? Here’s the 30 second Amazon preview of the better known song on the album. For those who don’t know the band, it is composed of a band named Savatage, plus a lot of other folks. Savatage has probably been kicking around for 15 years releasing one unusual concept album after another. They have this odd blend of thrash, rock opera, and I don’t know what.

I bought a Savatage album back in 1988 when I was in high school named In the Hall of the Mountain King. Since college, I hadn’t really listened to anything by the band until a couple years ago when I picked up Dead Winter Dead on a whim at a Half Price Bookstore. It tells the story of the fall of Sarajevo primarily from the point of view of a gargoyle on the cathedral in the center of town. Interestingly, the picture of the band in the liner notes has them standing way up high on scaffolding next to the gargoyle as the church is repaired after the wars. Here’s a review of the album.


When I came across a link to A Smoker’s Paradise on jh3k and saw that the author’s name was Micah Weedman, I thought the whole thing was a setup for a bad joke. Come on! Micah Weedman writing on smoking? Smoking what?

It is actually a rather interesting article.

Ocean’s Eleven

I suppose I shouldn’t have mentioned Ocean’s Eleven without providing at least a thumbs up/down. I thought the movie was great and lived up to its hype as a slick popcorn-eating entertainment package. No deep thoughts here, just a fun time as the plot unfolds. It was also surprisingly non-vulgar given the trends these days. Mild language, mild sex, mild violence, etc. I had wanted to see the movie after noticing that it was getting universally good reviews, from CNN to NPR.

I’ll also have to admit that I almost fell out of my chair laughing during the preview for Orange County. I guess I have a weakness for well done, immature movies.

And now I just need to help arrange for a baby-sitter on December 19…

NPR and contemporary worship

On the way to catch Ocean’s Eleven yesterday at a late matinee, I listened to an interesting segment on NPR’s All Things Considered that was delving into the contemporary worship scene. The real audio is linked six items down on this page. Linda asked some solid questions, but made two mistakes. First, she pretended that ‘tenderer’ was a word. Second, she didn’t point out a contradiction in two of the answers given. I’ll let you try to figure out which answers I thought contradicted each other. Perhaps there’s more than one. After all, I was dealing with traffic when listening to the segment…

Works and merit

Good stuff from my brother on the interaction of merit, works, and grace with regard to Adam, Israel, and us.

Anthrax and the USPS

I have a general question regarding the use of the US Postal Service as a delivery vehicle for anthrax: Is anyone surprised? Why not FedEx or UPS? Oh, that’s right… those organizations are run efficiently for profit, rather than losing $1.7 billion. They use these magical notations called barcodes, that allow simple people to wave wands over them resulting in the knowledge of where and when the package traded hands at all points in its delivery. They have a sane number of distribution centers, so that if irradiation machines are ultimately needed to fight terrorism, the cost would be more manageable. And the list goes on.