Welcome to the second installment of our new interstitial study, God’s Little Deconstruction Book. The verse from God’s Little Instruction Book for today is 1 Samuel 16:7b, “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” It’s part of a larger story that you’re likely familiar with, in which God, having rejected Saul as Israel’s king, leads Samuel to look for a new king to anoint from among Jesse the Bethlehemite’s sons. So as not to draw Saul’s ire, Samuel has a cover story: he comes together with Jesse and his sons to sacrifice a cow to God. And by the end of the tale, of course, Samuel has anointed the youngest son, David.
Are we finished with All the Paul? To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure, and that’s because of the letter to the Hebrews. The author doesn’t identify himself, and while some scholars think Paul wrote it, others think he didn’t, and still others, even after all their studies, maintain there isn’t enough evidence to reach a conclusion either way. Personally, I’m disinclined to think that Paul wrote it, based on style, tone, the way the author uses Old Testament quotations, and what I would consider a less Greek-influenced theology. But just in case, we’re going to include it in our All the Paul study–or, more accurately, we’re going to start a new study titled “Possibly More of the Paul.”
I’m having trouble finding it, but I swear we’ve seen a psalm like this before: written by the king, extolling the king. Psalm 110 is another psalm of David, and the NASB has provided a perfectly serviceable summary: “The Lord Gives Dominion to the King.” It’s also a Messianic Psalm. If you’ve read one of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) or checked out the book of Hebrews, you may recognize a few verses from this psalm that were also quoted by those New Testament writers. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews takes this psalm as referring to the Messiah–and so does Jesus.
Once you get out of the Torah, a lot of the references to the Sabbath don’t shed a lot of new light on the Sabbath. For example, 1 Chronicles 23:31 tells us that the priests offer burnt offerings on the Sabbath and on the calendar festivals–and therefore that offering burnt offerings does not constitute work. Not super-useful info for those of us who aren’t at all involved in the offering of burnt offerings. But I did come to a passage in 2 Kings that may contain some useful insights.
What makes a good king? It’s a question that we, in the largely king-free modern world, rarely ask ourselves. And many, seeing feudalism and monarchy as outdated, would say that the only good ruler is a deposed ruler whose reign has been supplanted by a democratic system of government. Others would go further in their hatred of monarchy, saying with Denis Diderot that “Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” As I’ve noted before, we as a whole are not so fond of kings.
Here we have another hymn of triumph, an ode to God’s majesty. Much like in Psalm 24, God is depicted as the King of Israel, victorious over Israel’s enemies and ruling over the nations from his throne. But this psalm was composed by the sons of Korah, who, to all appearances, love a good psalm of orientation. And I wish I did too.
The sons of Korah are at it again with a song celebrating the king’s marriage. Imagine, for a moment, that you are getting married, and instead of picking out an existing song to be played at your wedding, you decide that no other song in existence will do. A new love song will have to be written to commemorate the occasion. What will be the theme of your song? What will it sound like? Will it talk about shooting your foes with arrows?
We’ve got another psalm of orientation on our hands today. There are no marauding liars, no sleepless nights: just another song extolling the virtues of the king. But hold on–this isn’t another nationalistic ode to the king of Israel. David’s not talking about himself here, but about the King of the World: the Creator of heaven and earth.