Saul’s regime change

  Christians accept the model of the New Testament (NT) being theologically related to the Old Testament (OT) in a mutual arrangement. The NT ‘fulfils’ the promises and narrative arc of the OT. The OT provides the NT with a shorthand vocabulary with which the NT makes huge, rich statements by reference to ancient language and narrative, myth and history, types and poetry. 

It’s an easy and valuable idea that say, baptism can be explained by comparing it to The Flood, and the Exodus, and Jonah’s rescue by whale. It’s a harder concept if entire national histories were preordained and enacted as visual aids for our benefit. But that’s another discussion. 

David is certainly a “type”; the most prominent type of the Christ. He represents to Christians and Jews alike the rule of God on Earth, though they imagine that rule will be realised in many different ways. 

Nevertheless, whenever Jesus referred to shepherds and sheep, the connection with the shepherd boy who became king would be the elephant in the cultural room of 1st century Jewish storytelling. 

While reading the book, “Daniel Stein Interpreter” I came across an extension to this OT-NT metaphor. If David represents the Christ, could Saul represent “me”.  The central character of the book explains in his tour guide that a certain cave  is where David crept up on Saul and cut off a corner of his coat. 

Such parables are powerful; like a good icon, where a simple picture tells a rich story, dispensing with 400 pages of theoretical theology, and directly seeding our imagination with meaning and emotion. 

So for DS, David demonstrates to Saul his patience and forbearing in his ability and reluctance to do harm. See, says DS, Jesus has power of life and death over us. He can give us either. But he leaves us signs. He reminds us that we can choose, for now at least. 

1 Samuel 24. 

In the light of this I began to meditate on the expanded parable now presented by the whole saga of David and Saul. If Saul represents “my” soul, the one whose job is to accept the new anointed king, then what kind of relationship does this book illustrate?  

Saul is ruled by doubt, fear, anger. David is loyal as no other. David fights and conquers Saul’s enemies. David soothes and heals Sauls’ depression and rage with sweet music. David has the right to the kingdom; he has the anointing and wisdom, the strength and charisma, the promise of inevitable peace and prosperity. David refuses to take the kingdom by force. 

And in the end, how does Saul recognise David’s kingship? How does Saul give David the throne? The end is tragic. Saul refuses to be ruled by David. He clings to his authority and power unto death. 

The parable, if it is one, has such power, and perhaps great utility for a modern church that struggles with integrating the happy popular message of The Kingdom with the unhappy unpopular message of judgement and the wrath of God. 

I think a good god would certainly be filled with wrath at the state of creation under its current management. However, the parable of the rightful king, so reluctant to harm the appointed incumbent, is a great encouragement to release our authority to Him, for the benefit of both ourselves and the kingdom. 

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