O shepherd of Israel, hear us,
you who lead Joseph’s flock,
Shine forth upon your cherubim throne,
upon Ephraim, Benjamin, Manasseh.
O Lord, rouse up your might,
O Lord, come to our help.
Ps 79 (LXX)
. . .
I am somewhat behind: this, i think, is the way of things if you are me, with four children and a job as a lecturer in theology and ethics. Other people might well be able to manage to keep up.
Several days ago I mused about the whereabouts of the Almighty God. Anyone would have expected that when the ark of the covenant was brought into the camp, that would do it. God would surely save his people, given that demonstration of their confidence in him. But no. Somehow, the leper seemed to have done something Israel hadn’t. Or had he?
Wednesday’s reading from 1 Samuel gives us the resolution of the conflict With the Philistines. David appears and offers to take on the champion of the enemy’s army. What?!? Don’t be ridiculous, Saul seems to say. You’re only a boy. Yes, says David, but the Almighty is on my side. (We would be forgiven for thinking ‘yep, that’s what the Israelites thought, and look where it got them.’) Whatever it was the leper had, David seems to have had it too: the Lord gives him the victory over Goliath and through David the Israelites overcome the army of the Philistines. The Philistines had been worried by the presence of the ark in the camp; the defeat of their champion melts their courage entirely, and they flee. So also in the gospel reading for Wednesday Jesus heals the man with the withered hand…on the Sabbath. Jesus doesn’t do what is expected; God seems to have his own way of doing things.
If there’s one thing I have learned from these readings from 1 Samuel and the accompanying Psalms, it is that ‘happily ever after’ is not a biblical concept. In Hollywood, maybe; in Scripture, no. After David experiences victory in battle and the joy of deep friendship, he returns to defeat and loss (2 Samuel 1).
But if it is true that in the Bible we don’t tend to find ‘happily ever after’, it is also true that the moment of defeat Is never the end of the story. David defeated Goliath, and Jesus came out of the tomb: however dark the scene appears, it cannot prevent the dawn.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.