Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hurricane Season

A poor man who oppresses the lowly Is like a driving rain which leaves no food. 
An ancient proverb, also known as Proverbs 28:3

Saul was a quiet guy who knew his place—recognizing that his place was at the bottom of the barrel.  He was of the tribe of Benjamin, which not only was the smallest tribe but it had the worst reputation of all of the tribes of Israel at Saul’s time (just before the first millennium BC).  Perhaps the reputation had to do with one of their villages raping a Levite’s wife all night long, so she died and then defending that village from the other tribes of Israel until almost all the Benjamites died, and the few men that were left had to steal their wives from other tribes.17  But it could have been something else, you never know.
            So Saul, one of the descendants of this greatly reduced people was humble.  He kept a low profile and kept his head low—which required a bit of effort, because he was a tall guy.  Then one day he met someone who changed his life. 
This someone was Samuel, the famous prophet of Israel that was often just known by his title “the Seer”.  He was an impressive fellow, of the tribe of Levi, a priest, and the most important man in Israel.  He had a short fuse, and the day he met up with Saul, he was ticked off.  He had just found out that the people of Israel were rejecting his sons as leaders in his stead, and wanted a king like all the other nations.  Samuel was complaining loudly about this, “What’s wrong with what we’ve always had?  Why can’t you just be content with God leading you?  I mean, sure, you keep running away to idolatry, and God punishes you, but how is a king going to help you with that?” 
God was just saying to Samuel to mellow out and allow God to choose them a king when Samuel bumped into Saul.  It was like bumping into a brick wall with a steel frame.  This guy was tall, he looked tough.  Well, said God, impressed, huh?  Make him the king.  So Samuel declared to Saul that he would be king over all of Israel.  Then Samuel set up a meeting among all of the leaders of Israel to declare Saul king.
It was a ceremonial setting and all of the pomp and ritual of a good crowning.  Every tribe was accounted for, and a rolling of the dice to see who God would chose as king.  The tribe of Benjamin was chosen.  The family of Kish was selected.  And then, finally, Saul himself was chosen.  
They called for Saul.  No one answered.  
They called again.  Silence.  
Saul’s father was called.  He said, “I know he’s here, he came with me.  But he seems to have disappeared.”  
A search was made, and finally Saul was found—hiding among the lamp oil and tent pegs.  As he stood up, everyone knew why he was selected.  He was a head taller than anyone else and built like a Sherman tank.  He was immediately declared to be king before all the leaders that were gathered there.  And as soon as he was declared king he made the bold action of returning to his father’s farm and working the fields.18
It was there in those fields that Saul first heard of the Terrible Incident.  The Ammonites surrounded the town of Jabesh-gilead and enslaved them.  The Ammonites wanted them to be enslaved without a fight, and so threatened to carve out each one of their right eyes unless they were in agreement with the oppression.  
In a last ditch effort, the town said, “Give us seven days to see if anyone would help us.”  The Ammonites laughed, “Go ahead and try!”  So messengers were sent, and the word soon came to Saul as to the plight of this Israelite town.  Saul stood in his father’s field behind the plow when he receive the news.  He turned red then a shade of purple until finally he exploded.  He couldn’t believe the callousness of both the Ammonites and his own people to the plight of these needy townspeople.  
He took out a butcher knife and slaughtered the oxen at the front of the plow.  Then he cut the two oxen into twelve pieces19 and gathered messengers around him—“Each of you take a piece of this to the leaders of each tribe,” he commanded.  “Give the leaders this message, ‘If you refuse to assist Jabesh-gilead immediately, then I will come and personally make sure you end up looking like this!’” 
A large army arrived at Jabesh-gilead within a couple days and made short work of the Ammorites.  This confirmed Saul’s kingship, and soon he had a large house, a standing army and taxes began rolling in.  All of this was fine to the Israelites, for there were many peoples around them attempting to oppress them.  Saul was a good, if strict, commander of the army, and he offered them more security and law than they had had for more than a century and a half.20

Thus did Israel obtain a king who was humble and concerned about the oppressed.

But Saul was sometimes harsh, and not wise in his obedience to God.  Once he broke God’s command, offering a military sacrifice that only the priest (Samuel) should offer, because the priest was late.  Once he tried to kill his own son for mistakenly breaking his own vow. Another time Saul disobeyed God’s command due to his “humility” of paying attention to the people’s greed instead of God.21
Samuel had had it.  He said, “What kind of a king do you think you are?  Justice doesn’t happen at your own whim, but in following the commands of God.  Sure, Saul, you made sure that all those who practiced occult practices were kicked out of Israel.  But, you know what, your disobedience is just as bad as witchcraft!  Since you rejected God by your rebellion, God has rejected you as king!”  Samuel walked away and Saul, weeping and begging for mercy, grabbed onto his robe, which tore in his hands.  Samuel stopped, turned to Saul, and said, “In the same way God will tear from you His kingdom.”22

At this point, we could say that Saul went a bit nutzo in the head.  He was prone to angry outbursts, murderous rages and epileptic fits.  Today he might be labeled schizophrenic, or perhaps bi-polar.  The Bible—being so unsophisticated—said he had an evil spirit that oppressed him due to his disobedience.   Whatever the case, Saul was not a well man.  Some wise Israelite had an inking of the future wise saying, “Music hath charms that sooths the savage breast” and so hired a harp player to calm Saul down.
Ah, the harp player.  Who was to guess that he was to be the greatest military mind the Hebrews would produce for a thousand years?23  First there was the Giant Event—not meaning a huge car sale, but an actual giant.  The harp player—his name is David, in case you didn’t guess—wiped that giant out with quick motion, no armor and a speedy weapon.  Then his little troop began knocking down the enemies of Israel.  Then the cheerleaders—the final downfall of Saul—began chanting, “Saul defeated crowds/David multitudes!”  Once he heard this shout—once or twice a day, a hundred times during victory parades—he knew one thing—David must die.24
First, in a fit of rage, he threw a spear at David.  Missed.  Next, he tried to have David kill himself.  “Hey, Dave.  I was just wondering, you wanna marry my youngest daughter.  Oh, don’t worry, I’d love to have you as my son.  But there is a price.  Just bring me a thousand penises from our enemies.”  Next thing you know, two hundred Philistines were singing soprano and David’s father-in-law had a lot more sex toys than he knew what to do with.  Then Saul sent assassins.  But David’s new wife heard of the plot, and threw David out the window to save him. 
After Saul raged at Jonathan for being friendly with David, David figured it was time to high tail it outta there.  So he ran to the desert with a small band of men.   Saul, in his delirium, knew that David was running away in order to establish an army to overthrow him and become king himself.  Since he couldn’t find David himself, he began attacking the “supporters of terrorism”.  When his son, Jonathan, spoke in favor of David, Saul threw a spear at him. 
Then Saul heard from his foreign spy, Doeg the Edomite (Edom was a national enemy of Israel) that David was last seen in Nob, where the ark of the covenant was being held.  Saul rushes to Nob with a small force and confronts the high priest there, Ahimelech.  “Son of Ahitub, what assistance have you been giving my enemy, the traitor David?”
“I have not helped any of your enemies, my king.  But to David I gave supplies and the sword of Goliath.”
“Why have you helped that son of a whore?  You have even sought God for him so that he might ambush me at night!”
“Who is a more faithful assistant to you than David?  He was going about your business and so we helped him.”
“Liar!  You are all traitors to me”
Then Saul turned to his men and said, “Put them all to death!  The whole village!”
Saul’s men stood, looking at their sandles.  One was emboldened to say, “How can we touch the priests of God?  We will not be cursed by doing such evil!”
Saul proclaimed, “Will no one dare to obey me?”
“I will.”  And Doeg the Edomite pulled out his sword and killed each priest, each woman, each child in the village, while not a single one raised a voice in protest out of obedience to their king. 25

Thus did Saul change from being the humble king to an oppressor of God’s people.

*     *     *

The story of Saul is the story of many of God’s people.  Lowly and dejected God raised them up to salvation and to gain power and importance they could have never achieved on their own.  But instead of seeing God as the one who raises up the humble, they reject others who were in a lowly state as they themselves were.  Instead of being the “helper of the poor” they become oppressors themselves.  Soon, their full-time job is to protect their own wealth and position, seeking to keep it from those who want to “take advantage of them.”  The fears and unrighteous indignation of the uplifted then attack the lowly, accusing them of terrible crimes and motives with no proof.  The people of God could soon be called “the hurricane that destroys all food”, as Proverbs calls the lowly who oppresses the poor.26  Jesus himself spoke of the steward, in charge of all of his master’s household, yet he chooses to abuse his fellow slaves, and revel in pleasure.  He said, “His master shall come when he does not expect him, cut him into pieces and cast him to the unbelievers.”27
We see ourselves as sinners, as unrighteous, as saved only by the grace of God.  Yet how often have no grace on the lowly who are around us?  Instead we expect the lowly to be like us, only without the resources we have at our disposal.  We act as if it were money that makes the world go ‘round, when really, it is mercy.

17. Of course, this is the story told just a couple posts before.  Due to the horrific incident, there was a war between the Benjamites and the other 11 tribes, which caused almost the complete annihilation of Benjamin as a tribe, including all of the women.  In order for Benjamin to continue, the eleven tribes turned their heads when they stole wives from neighboring towns.  The whole story is in Judges 20-21.
18. This part of the story is found in I Samuel 8-10.
19. Interestingly enough, this is the same method the Levite “pastor” called Israel to war against Benjamin.  Except the pastor cut up and sent out his wife instead of an ox.
20. From the time of Joshua, actually.  This part of the story is found in I Samuel 11.
21. I Samuel  13, 14 and 15 respectively.
22. Paraphrase of I Samuel 15:22-29
23. Of the Hebrews, probably only Judas Maccabeus would be close to David’s equal in military genius.
24. I Samuel 17.  David and Goliath story.  Don’t worry, you probably already know it.
25. I Samuel 18-22.
26. Proverbs 28:3.
27. Matthew 24:48-51.

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