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Posts Tagged "2 Samuel 22:26-34"

Superman

August 09, 2020
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation for this ninth Sunday after Trinity comes from our Old Testament text, where we hear David’s words, “For who is God, but YHWH? And who is a rock, except our God? This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends …

Who would you rather be: Clark Kent … or Superman? The bumbling reporter for the Daily Planet with the dorky glasses, wrinkled clothes, and clumsy disposition or the Man of Steel with his laser-vision, perfectly coiffed hair, chiseled chin, saving the planet on a daily basis with ease? No, you haven’t wandered into ComicCon. I ask the question because our text reads somewhat like a classic Superman comic: David describes himself, not exactly faster than a speeding bullet, but able to run against a troop of soldiers. He may not leap tall buildings in a single bound, but he does say that he can leap over a wall. He might not be more powerful than a locomotive, but his arms can bend a bow of bronze. We often think of the so-called “heroes of the faith” in somewhat romanticized terms, but here, David legitimately sounds more akin to Superman than to the mild-mannered alter-ego. By this point in life, when David is singing this psalm, he’s been ruler over a growing kingdom. Again, which would you rather be? The little shepherd boy, gangly and last to be considered, the Clark Kent of Israel … or the mighty slayer of giants and conqueror of Jerusalem?

Before you answer, consider the following: the last 14 chapters of 2 Samuel prior to our text had shown the façade of superhuman King David … beginning to crack. Things started off well with his reign: the Ark of the Covenant’s return to Jerusalem from enemy hands, the promise YHWH gave to David regarding a descendant who would remain on the throne for eternity, the touching scene where the shepherd-king shows kindness to the son of his old enemy. But then, in chapter 10, some of the peoples he rules over rebel against him, forcing David into a very costly battle. Things only get worse as the story progresses: David disregards God’s law, takes in Bathsheba, murders Uriah, and sees the child of that adulterous relationship die. This is to say nothing of the rest of David’s family life: the violating of Tamar by firstborn son Amnon, Amnon’s subsequent murder by the third son Absalom, which leads to a chapters-long struggle between father and rebellious son that only ends when Absalom is hanging dead from a tree and David is mourning yet another lost son.

When he is restored to the throne, does everything go swimmingly for David? Hardly; cracks appear in the borders of his kingdom. A famine that only dissipates after the grisly sacrifice of Saul’s descendants. Yet more war with the Philistines who have, not one giant this time around, but four. By the end of chapter 21, David more resembles Clark Kent than he does Kal-El. No longer the youthful shepherd-boy who fought lions and giants, he’s old now, wearied by war and the weight of kingship. He certainly doesn’t seem like a “superman.” He barely seems like a shadow of himself.

But it’s at this point that we hear this incredible psalm. After all the strains and cracks and failures, nearing a rather inglorious end of his life, David lifts up his voice and sings the only psalm of his to be included in the historical books of the Old Testament. In it, he does make mention of the rather superhuman feats that he is able to do – incredulous though it would seem, given his frail and aged condition. Is it bluster? Some Israelite propaganda? Is it him employing the power of positive thinking? Is it him whistling past the graveyard, unwilling to come to grips with what he has done and where he’s at in life? None of the above – instead, David insists upon the truth of his life: “YHWH is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”

David fully acknowledges that it is only by the hand of YHWH that he is able to do anything, let alone accomplish those incredible superhuman feats. “For by you I can run against a troop,” the king sings, “and by my God I can leap over a wall. This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your gentleness made me great.” David is Clark Kent … but he’s Clark Kent with YHWH behind him, beside him, before him.

Moreover, David recognizes that it’s not about him at all! “For this I will praise you, YHWH, among the nations, and sing praises to your name. Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever.” YHWH’s preservation of David, in spite of his bumbling and sin, is not solely for the sake of David alone. YHWH does it … to preserve the Messianic line, to fulfill the promise to David and to Abraham and to Adam. YHWH preserves David and his descendants from generation to generation – most of whom were far and away idolatrous monsters – to ensure that the ultimate King … David’s King … would enter this world to accomplish His mission to save, not only David, but the whole of humanity. David had heard the promise that YHWH his God would send the Messiah, who would save His people from their sin. This psalm of David is not about God saving David, but rather about God saving His people through David’s descendant, Jesus of Nazareth, who lived, died, and rose again to bring His kingdom to His people … including us. He is for us, and He sent Jesus to show it.

As school is gearing up to start and we rededicate our school staff, may I humbly encourage you all to remember that you’re not Superman any more than David was. You don’t have the laser-vision or the perfect hair. You’re Clark Kent, the bumbling sinner, and so are we all. But you do have YHWH your God before you, beside you, behind you, above you, and below you. He is your rock and fortress, doing battle for you. He will give you what you need to endure these incredibly trying times. He already has, in fact, by sending Jesus. Sing with David, and all creation, in praise of Christ, our crucified and resurrected Lord, Who has given us salvation and forgiveness! “For who is God, but YHWH? And who is a rock, except our God? This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless.”

+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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