Friday, July 31, 2009

Not a good luck charm

With the start of my third year of medical school I've been shocked into a schedule quite foreign to me, waking up at four or five in the morning to make it to the hospital to see patients and have charts ready for interns and residents by six or seven. In the last week or so I've gotten in the habit of reading a chapter from the Old Testament with my coffee and oatmeal before heading to the hospital. I've made it through the OT before but in recent years I've neglected it a bit, spending most of my time in the Gospels and also a good amount of time in the rest of the NT in my regular devotional reading.

There are a lot of things in the Old Testament I wouldn't claim to have a good understanding of. This is certainly not the fault of one of my favorite professors at Asbury Theological Seminary, Dr. Lawson Stone, who taught a wonderful Old Testament survey class when I was there. I think the Old Testament is generally harder to understand than the New Testament and one area which has always been difficult for me is dealing with the ark of the covenant. It had bothered me that at times it seemed like the Israelites treated it as a good luck charm. And it almost seems that that was how it worked sometimes, as with Obed-edom in 2nd Samuel 6:10-11 where the Lord blesses Obed-edom, seemingly as a result of having the Ark under his roof.

During my mornings I've been reading through 2nd Samuel and recently read through chapter fifteen. Here David is fleeing from Jerusalem as Absalom prepares to take the kingdom from his father. As David is fleeing Jerusalem, the priests and Levites come to David bearing the ark of the covenant. But David tells Zadok, the priest, to, "Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me back and let me see both it and his dwelling place. But if he says, 'I have no pleasure in you,' behold, here I am, let him do to me what seems good to him (2nd Samuel 15:25-26)." I'll admit that I had forgotten this passage and when I read that the priests had carried out the ark I figured that David would want to take it with him. But the first thought I had at David's words was that he did not view the ark as a good luck charm. I must be in good company with that assessment because I checked the text note in my ESV Study Bible right away and it read, "David does not try to use the ark as some sort of 'good luck charm.'" Instead David's attitude seems to be completely trusting in God's sovereignty, with or without the ark. David doesn't seem to think that the outcome of Absalom's rebellion will come about by chance or that having the ark will somehow increase his chances of success. David sees his return to Jerusalem as completely dependent upon the will of the Lord and nothing else. This one occasion certainly doesn't undo all of my lack of understanding in this area but I think David's perspective is very interesting here and I think it also reflects the perspective we should have as Christians on the grace of God. That is, we can't earn it and we can't manipulate God in any way to get it. How God bestows grace is completely dependent on his sovereign will and not dependent on anything we could be or do.


Ed said...

Actually, the theology of ark as a magical object that will manipulate God into granting victory is rejected very explicitly in the account of the Philistines' capture of the ark in 1 Sam. 4-6. What is particularly interesting about this account is the manner in which the army itself is then put forward as irrelevant to victory. After the Israelites fail to manipulate God into defeating the Philistines for them, the ark itself then defeats the Philistines and brings back tribute. The moral of the story: God needs neither arks nor armies to win.

Ed said...

Although that being said, the Ark is seen essentially as the mystical throne of God. Quite explicitly, it is not itself God, but it is essentially the Israelite version of an "idol." That is, the mercy seat is the place where he "who rides on the cherubim" sits at as he presides over the world. Theoretically at least, you can't divorce the presence of the Almighty from his earthly throne.

Just Me said...

"The moral of the story: God needs neither arks nor armies to win."

Amen!! Beautifully stated.

The ultimate sovereignty of our LORD seems to be too often forgotten. It's almost as if, on at least some level, we'ev fallen for the lie that He isn't in control. I often wonder if we really, really understood His sovereignty, how much would the percentage drop of those suffering from depression and anxiety?

It saddens me how many I find myself depressed or anxious... only to realize that my state is because I'm not trusting the the LORD really is LORD of all.

Matt Perkins said...

"This is my Father's world,
Oh, let me ne'er forget,
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet,

This is my Father's world,
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King, let the heavens ring,
God reigns, let the earth be glad."

Ed said...

Good song. :-)