Often when we read the Bible, we look at the towering figures of the story such as Abraham and Moses, David and Daniel, or Peter and Paul, holding them up as examples to emulate. Unlike other ancient writings of heroes and gods however, the leading characters of the Biblical story are flawed human beings, sometimes terribly so. To save his own skin, Abraham passed his wife off as his sister, consigning her to a harem - twice! David raped Bathsheba and murdered her husband to cover it up. There's nothing negative written about Daniel, but if you read the story carefully, his political doublespeak could earn him a respected seat in Congress. Peter denied Jesus and Paul had a temper that caused the first schism in international mission work. Instead of reading these stories and saying, "O God, I want to be like them," we should be saying, "Have mercy, God; I am like them."
I've been reading the story of Israel's first king, Saul. He was the epitome of everything a king should be; handsome, a full head taller than most of his contemporaries, and at least at the beginning, humble. But he was headstrong and impatient, and scornful of the cultural order of the day which assigned separate roles for prophet, for priest, and for king. Impatient with the slower pace at which God often moves, he abrogated to himself the roles of prophet and priest in what was the equivalent of our own presidential executive orders, and in so doing became directly responsible for his own downfall and ultimately a rather bloody clash of dynasties. (Sounds pretty contemporary to me!) The nation was divided and his family destroyed because he refused to honor the institutions he was as king bound to uphold.
When the story is read for what it really is, it speaks profoundly not just to my personal needs or wants, but to the conflicts in which our own society is locked. It is tempting today to cast our lot with one political party or another, with this or that candidate, but if the Biblical story means anything, it is an ancient reminder that kingdoms rise and fall, but God remains the same. Saul gave way to David, whose kingdom grew rich and flabby after his son took over, and divided upon the accession of his grandson. It was pretty much downhill after that, but guess what? After years of exile, God hadn't abandoned his people. And he still hasn't. Israel is here, after nearly 2,000 years of dispersion.
In spite of unfaithfulness, foolishness, and rebellion, God is still God, and still loves us. And as we learned Sunday, when we fail, we haven't let God down because we were never holding him up. Contrarily, he is the One holding us up. Tonight I am grateful for the consistent witness of Scripture to the faithfulness of God in the face of the unfaithfulness of mankind. Thank you Lord, for not giving up on us!