Diamonds In the Rough

Scripture Focus: 1 Samuel 30.22-25
22 But all the evil men and troublemakers among David’s followers said, “Because they did not go out with us, we will not share with them the plunder we recovered. However, each man may take his wife and children and go.” 

23 David replied, “No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the LORD has given us. He has protected us and delivered into our hands the raiding party that came against us. 24 Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” 25 David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this. 

Reflection: Diamonds In the Rough
By John Tillman

During this period of David’s life, he was God’s anointed, the rightful king of Israel, yet Saul was determined to maintain power. David not only had no throne, he was forced into exile.

An outcast, David attracted outcasts. (1 Samuel 22.2) He took in the distressed and the discontented, the poor and the rebellious. It’s easy to lead those of exemplary character and high moral standards. David was leading those so violent they were a danger to even him.

Many events in this section of scripture depict tests of David’s character. Will he murder Nabal? (1 Samuel 25.34) Or Saul? (1 Samuel 24.3-10) Will he take the throne by force? Will he be just? Will he be a ruffian in the wilderness or a diamond in the rough?

David doesn’t pass every test. To survive Saul, he serves the enemy of his enemy, marching under the banner of King Achish and his false god. David is no king yet. At best, during this time we might call David a warlord—a mercenary. At worst, a war criminal. Scripture doesn’t hide these failings but it does highlight moments when David’s roughness is cut away and facets of kingly destiny shine.

In a moment of victory, David’s rough gang of fighters wants to shame the weak, claiming dominance and a greedy share of wealth. The narrator calls them “evil men and troublemakers.” David calls them, “my brothers.”

David does not shy away from pointing out that their arguments are foolish. His rhetorical question, “Who will listen to what you say?” shames them but calling them “brothers” lifts them up. David not only stops the madness of the moment, he establishes a just rule from that moment on. David grows into his calling and at least some of his men follow along.

Like David, we may find ourselves in exile stuck between wicked kings. We feel the tension of being in this world but not of it and being surrounded by the desperate who default to violence and selfishness.

Like David, we’ll stumble, fail, and perhaps compromise when we should stand boldly. But amidst our rough and tumble world, we must remember that in God’s reality, we are children of God and regents of his Kingdom.

We, and those around us, need to be cut, shaped, ground, and polished by the Holy Spirit from diamonds in the rough to shining facets reflecting Christ’s light.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Open my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise. — Psalm 51.16

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 29-30 (Listen 6:33)
Revelation 9 (Listen 3:30)

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Slavery to Maturity

Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 10.3-5
They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

Reflection: Slavery to Maturity
By John Tillman

In his 2015 book, Onward, Russell Moore penned a prescient paragraph or two about the political future:

“The church of Jesus Christ ought to be the last people to fall for hucksters and demagogues. After all, the church bears the Spirit of God, who gifts the Body with discernment and wisdom. But too often we do. We receive celebrities simply because they are ‘conservative,’ without asking what they are conserving. If you are angry with the same people we are, you must be one of us. But it would be a tragedy to get the right president, the right Congress, and the wrong Christ. That’s a very bad trade-off….”

It’s a stunningly accurate picture of today’s political reality that relates to our reading.

Events recorded in scripture are not always for our emulation. Sometimes, like the accounts of the Israelites in the desert, they are cautionary. Paul describes a liberated nation of Israel who gained political freedom, yet were morally and spiritually fragile and prone to deceptions by Balaams and Ba’als and idols of the desert.

Israel’s desert journey can be analogized as our journey of personal or cultural spiritual growth. The spiritual maturity of American Christianity and all Western Christianity has long been called into question. Long years of cultural ease have left us as ignorant of God as the Israelites long years of slavery in Egypt. In Egypt, the Israelites’ were well fed physically but not spiritually. The same could be said of Western and American Christianity. Perhaps the best thing God can do for our spiritual maturity is to lead us through a desert of trials, mistakes, and dangers.

In the desert, there will be false prophets and deceptions. We pressure our leaders to make Golden Idols and they, like Aaron, do so. We suffer. We thirst. We hunger.

To survive we need to become so familiar with the daily “bread from Heaven” that we grow tired of it and long for meat, which God will also provide.

May our feeding on the spiritual food of God’s Word lead to the kind of maturity and discernment we need to stand on the gospel of Christ and not on the shifting sands of human leaders, political promises, or political parties. Like Israel in the desert, we are outcasts from every kingdom of earth. They offer us little other than idolatry and eventual betrayal.

We are sojourning to the kingdom of Christ.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, what can make it salty again? It is good for nothing, and can only be thrown out to be trampled underfoot by men.” — Matthew 5.13

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 29-30 (Listen – 6:33) 
1 Corinthians 10 (Listen – 4:04)

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We, like the Israelites, excel at forgetting God and we are especially good at forgetting him when we are comfortable, wealthy, and prosperous.

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Let the warning of the Holy Spirit be heard by those who are followers of Christ, do not harden your hearts towards God.