A New Promise and A New Agenda

February 23, 2017
Daily Scripture Texts
Psalm 2
Exodus 6:2-9
Hebrews 8:1-7

He’s got to be a kid—King David, I mean. He’s got to be young and proud and more than a little belligerent. He’s got to be feeling his oats in Psalm 2, running on a full tank of testosterone. Listen to him roar, you kings of earth. Listen to what he says:

               Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
               Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
               Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

He’s got to be a kid when he wrote this.

There were moments in his life, remember, when Joab, his own General Patton, had to scream at him to get up from his royal couch and thank the troops who put their lives on the line in hand-to-hand combat against his rebel son Absalom (II Samuel 19).

On the other hand, don’t forget David’s hunger for dashing the enemy in pieces is what got him in divine trouble. His love of war left too much blood on Middle East battlefields and on his own dirty hands, so much so that God told him in no uncertain terms he was not the man to build God’s own Holy Temple.

Even though no other biblical character gets the divine praise David does— “a man after God’s own heart”—it was the King’s love of war that kept him from his own lifelong dream of constructing a home, a temple, for God almighty. Exactly this kind of braying—and acting on it—left him alone to die.

In the 1840s, when the Lakota murdered gold-hungry prospectors cutting through Indian land, what those warriors left on the trail wasn’t pretty; but neither was King David’s brand of doing battle. So much for the Geneva Conventions.

That’s why I say King David had to be young when he composed Psalm 2. He had to be a kid with a bit of a big mouth, a heavy swagger, and a whole lot left to learn.

Let’s be honest: Psalm 2, like some other psalms, suggests a story that’s blood-soaked and sometimes not so easy to love.

It’s not particularly difficult for passages like this one to convey an image of the Creator as a fire-breathing heavenly potentate far more ready to kill than kiss (vs. 12). Psalms like this one have created an image of God that readers for hundreds of years have found somehow easy to leave behind.

Thanks to be God for Hebrews 8 and its introduction of a new high priest, a new intermediary, a new counselor between God and all of us down here in the world, a  world not so much bloody different from the one King David long ago left behind. And there’s a new promise too, a new strategy, a new covenant between Creator and created.

That new strategy goes like this: things aren’t going to operate like they did before.

More tomorrow. More good news to hear.

No one can definitively determine who wrote the letter to the Hebrews, but that doesn’t matter. It’s part of the canon, and what it tells—sometimes maybe a bit too slowly for our own tastes—is that the bloody Old Testament world was constructed around a covenant that simply elapsed once divinity came down to lie in a manger.

We have a new go-between, a new prophet of sacrifice and gifts who’s done it all once and forever, whose story includes King David, a freedom fighter named Moses, and Rahab, a prostitute with a heart of gold. We have a new royalty, and he’s the prince of peace.

That’s our story. It’s a promise, a divine promise, a covenant, a mission.

“Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” Psalm 2:12

About the Author
  • James Calvin Schaap is a retired English prof who spent 37 years teaching literature and writing at Dordt. When he retired from Dordt, he pulled up stakes in Sioux Center and pitched his tent north of Alton, where he lives out in the country with a broad backyard of fine Sioux County land. We’re cat people, he says, but can’t help thinking there are dozens of dogs in any nearby shelter who’d love to call their country place home. Who knows?

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