Sunday 4 July 2021

The Lord is With You

 "And [David] became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him." (2 Sam 5:10)

One of the more common expressions in the Bible, "The Lord is/was with someone." Said to Joshua when he's about to go up and start conquering the Holy Land, and the people of Israel tell him to be bold and strong. Said spectacularly to Mary at the Annunciation - when Gabriel said "The Lord is with you", and Mary "was greatly troubled at his words" - as who wouldn't be?

Said here about David. And it's a key message of the books of Samuel and Kings. Why does David - the ideal King - become more and more powerful?

Well, it's not because of his great might, in the first instance. God chose him when he was just the farmer's lad.

It's not because of his great morality. He spent half his life basically acting like a guerilla, at one point he went off and joined the Philistines, he slept with the wife of one of his captains, then arranged for that captain to die.

It's not his judgement and wisdom. He hopelessly over-indulged his son Absolom and when he should have been ruthless in dealing with Absolom, he spent his time faffing around over the matter until Absolom got himself caught up by the hair in a tree - and then he went off mourning when he should have been ruling.

It's not his accuracy with a sling, though that was handy. And not that he's a pretty handy writer of psalms and a bit of a hero at playing the lyre. Though that's useful.

It's because the Lord is with him. Which puts it all in context.

Also puts our modern life in context. We put people on pedestals because they look good on YouTube or because we think they're charismatic politicians - left or right. And then when they fail we beat them up because they are in fact just human beings.

But the thing that David seems to have known all along is that he's just a man. You don't see pride from him. Bear in mind this is the man who's captured Jerusalem - already an ancient and holy city, and one that will be for the next 3,000 years and more. He's united the tribes of Israel around him. He's established a dynasty. 

 And yet - when he fights Goliath he knows that he will win because the Lord is on his side. In Psalm 20, he says, "some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." In Psalm 22 - speaking of himself and yet, through the Spirit, also of the One who will come from his line - he describes God enthroned as the Holy One, and himself as just a worm, not even a man.

And that's maybe why God is with him. Because David knows how things are. He doesn't set himself up as a god-king, like the Eastern rulers do and the Pharaohs and like the Caesars started to do. Maybe he spent too long out in the dark, fighting off wild animals, to think that he's the super human. He's always aware of his dependence on God. And because of that, he's always aware that God is with him.

God is with you. We pray it as a blessing - "The Lord be with you". The Lord was with David when he was winning battles, when he was dancing as the Ark of the Covenant came into Jerusalem - but also when he is in great distress. When his son Absolom has killed his other son Amnon - and is now taking over his kingdom - and David is once again in hiding - he can write,

"But You, O Lord, are a shield about me,
My glory, and the One who lifts my head." (Ps 3)

God's grace, God's free love, is most with David even when he's being most useless, and when things are going wrong, you could say. And that's when David can respond to God's love in faith. So this is true for us as well. We don't have to be ashamed of our weakness - to hide our sadness from God. David poured all his out. And the Lord was with him. Even if I fall into Hell, said David, even there I'm not hidden from you:

"Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you" (Ps 139)
Like all lives, David's comes to an end. By the standards of his day he's quite old - 70 - but by then he's worn out I expect with all that fighting and dancing and dealing with all his wives and children.

But he dies having been promised that his line will never end - although he's not to know how that promise will work out. But we know. In that holy city of Jerusalem, which he captured, which he made his capital and where he gathered the tribes into one holy nation - his great descendant was presented before God, and Anna and Simeon prophesied that he was one greater than David. Just outside that same city, this great descendant died. Just outside that same city, he also rose from the dead. And one of the titles that great descendant is given is Immanuel - God is with us.

When John Wesley died - another chap whose holy career interfered badly with his relationships with women - his last words are said to have been, "best of all is, God is with us."

The Lord is with you - because you are God's child. The Lord is with you - because of God's love. The Lord is with you - because "great David's greater son" was in fact the Son of God, who came to earth to find the lost and find you and me. The Lord is with you - because God's love is so great that God can never ever leave you.

So today, whether you're feeling happy, brilliant, sad, or broken, know this blessing - the Lord is with you.

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