Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A: Love or Fear

RCL: 1 Samuel 16:1-13Psalm 23Ephesians 5:8-14John 9:1-41

Remembering the Women: 1 Samuel 18:20-22, 27-29; 19:11-17

God chooses David to be the next king of Israel.  The people around him choose their reactions to God choosing David; Love or Fear.  

To say the relationship between Saul and David is complicated feels like an understatement.  At one point, Saul loves David; David is able to sooth him.  But when Saul realizes that God has chosen David to be the next king, he is jealous, angry, and plots to kill David (a few times).  Saul chooses to respond to God’s will with fear.  When God choose Saul, I don’t think Saul thought this would be the way his kingdom would end.  Maybe he thought his son would be king, maybe he thought he would be king until he died never knowing who would be next.  But Saul is not in control of who will be king or whom his family and servants love.  Saul does not have the power to control what is happening, even his plots to kill David don’t work out.  This is definitely not how Saul envisioned his reign as king.  Who would want to spend their last days at king fighting, frightened, angry, and driven into madness by your own stupid choices?  

Losing control, power, and “the way things were supposed to be” is hard for us all.  But when we are faced with circumstances we can’t change, the only thing we actually have control over is our own reaction.  We can choose to be calm.  We can choose to be gracious.  We can choose to love.  Jonathan and Michal chose to love David and their acts of faithfulness and courage motivated by love are what we should look to as our model.

Jonathan made different choices than his father.  He had just as much reason as Saul to be angry at God and at David.  In a typical kingdom inheritance scheme, the king’s son or grandson would be the next king or at least a relative would be king.  Jonathan could have been disappointed that he wasn’t going to be the next king.  He could have joined in on this father’s schemes to get rid of David, but he didn’t.  He loved David.  He made a covenant with him that seems personal and political.  Jonathan gives David personal belongings, those items that would belong to the next in line for the throne.  Jonathan has a deep personal love for David.  I’m not going to define that love, because that’s where we all get into trouble.  If you are looking for a good article on that check out Jonathan’s David-love in the “card talk” blog of the creators of “A game for Good Christians”.  

Michal makes some interesting choices in this saga too.  It may not strike us as modern reasons, but it is remarkable that we know she loves David (1 Samuel 18:20).  “It is the only time in Hebrew Scripture where a woman is said to love a man, and where a woman’s feelings precipitate a marriage. ….  …it is bold for Michal to both love and to make that love known (reported twice, vv. 20,28) in a time of politically arranged marriages.”[1]  Michal is brave.  Brave in sharing her feelings and brave to defy her father and king in order to save David.  When Saul is trying kill David, she helps him escape, lies to the servants saying he is sick, and then she makes the bed to look like he’s sleeping in it.  She gets an idol and goats hair and extra clothes to make it look convincing.  Saul orders his servant to bring David to him on his sick bed so he can kill David.  That’s when everyone knows Saul has really lost it and that David isn’t in his bed.  Michal lies again, most likely to save herself, saying David threatened her if she didn’t help him escape.  We don’t have a record of what David actually says to her, we don’t really even know that he loved her.  Only that she loved him.  And that she acted to save him because of her love for him.  

It is interesting that Jonathan uses his words, his promise to David, and his conversation with Saul to help David.  And it is Michal that takes action; she helps David escape and she lies about his whereabouts.  Her actions can be perceived a more masculine and her brother Jonathan’s actions which appear to be more in line with biblical expectations of a feminine role[2].  But maybe what is more remarkable, is that we have no idea what David did to earn this kind of love.  This gender stereotype breaking love.  Irrational, unconditional, undeniable love.  But, love is not something that anyone can earn or deserve; it is a gift.  

Let us give thanks with grateful hearts for this gift.  

[1] New Interpreter Bible Commentary 2015, vol. 2, page 441

[2] New Interpreters Bible Commentary 2015, vol.2, page 444

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