:: Blog | Nov 3/22
I love Thrice. I don't think there's any hiding that fact. The last one of these ...
:: Quest | May 24/13
A long-standing franchise with an ordinary product that all tastes the same ...
:: Writings | Sep 25/16
Sermon : Sodom and Gomorrah

1 Samuel 25

When I read through the stories of the Hebrew Bible I often find myself encouraged. But it's an encouragement that feels very much like relief.

Having kids — or at least reading a children's Bible — changes the way you look at your own Bible. Reading to my daughter Elena from one of her Bibles has made me become very conscious of what we leave out when teaching our kids the Scriptural narrative. And it has made me very conscious of our attitudes towards the characters and people we encounter while we read.

I'm sure many of you can relate. All of us who grew up in Christian homes grew up listening to the tales of all the biblical heroes:

Abraham who always did the right thing by faith;
Joseph who could interpret dreams, and without hesitation resist temptation;
Moses the mouthpiece of God who led the people to freedom and spoke to God face-to-face;
Solomon the wisest of all men;
and David, the poet, righteous and greatest king Israel ever knew.

But this is only a portion of the story – it's only one side of the coin.

Abraham didn't always have faith enough to trust God and we're told he lied twice about his wife, Sara, being his sister in order to save his own skin.
Joseph was a bit of a jerk to his brothers. Sure, at the beginning of his narrative it's perhaps innocent but at the end Joseph plays a nasty game with his family before he reveals his true identity.
Moses was a whiny baby who constantly questioned God, was curt with his people, and generally had a short fuse and was filled with all sorts of angst.
Solomon selfishly accumulated wealth, fame, and women as good as any celebrity or politician.

And David. Oh boy, where to begin with David!

David was a conniving, selfish, murderous, arrogant, ambitious, rapist who a lot of times seems far more juvenile than saintly.

And yet these are the heroes we're given.

Role-models are interesting things. Every generation, and every culture has them. But rarely do any of our role-models — especially in this day of super information — end up unscathed by some scandal or unmarred by something even as simple as a misspoken word.

Role-models are held aloft, high on pedestals in admiration.

But their every move is scrutinised, their every word analysed, and if we could read our role-model's thoughts we'd run each one of them through inspection.

As far as role-models go, our Scriptures do a lot of that balanced caricaturing for us. And it's a bit of relief for me personally. You see, by nature I have a very low view of myself as a person. But no matter how disappointed I am in what I've done or neglected to do, it never quite seems as bad as some of these biblical heroes.

But that's kind of the point. None of us are perfect — not even the great figures of history God chose as his advocates and representatives.

Still, we are called to a high standard of conduct, and we are given a handful of examples of people who do seem to have been able to achieve a level of righteousness and holiness that by most accounts is perhaps a tad inhuman. Or superhuman.

Today's passage contains one of a few of the holy, wise, and righteous people of the Bible — and it's not David.

And it's not even a man.

Don't misinterpret my meaning. I bring the gender up as a genuinely important point for the historical context. And context is king.

I'm sure many of you have heard this before, but it's important enough to highlight at least briefly. Women in the time that this narrative was written were viewed very differently than they are in our own context today. While sometimes it seems we still have a ways to go, we have come a bit further than back in those days.

Women in these times were often seen as little more than their husband's property. Their rights were intimately and inextricably bound and defined by the rights of the men in their community. Women could not testify in court and they were restricted to roles in the community with little or no authority.

Here, however, we have a woman who has a unique presence — and in fact our entire Scriptures are periodically peppered with stories of and praise for strong women who at times represent a feminine superiority.1

Here in our story we have a woman who not only appears to be the central literary figure, but a woman who in fact seems to act as the standard cast against idiocy.2

It is worth noting that of all the women mentioned in the book of 1 Samuel, our heroine today is the only one whose husband is defined in light of herself and not the opposite — where the other five women in the book are spoken of in relation to their husband, Abigail is the lead paradigm and her husband is the contrasted figure.3

  1. Ken Mulzac, 'The Role of Abigail in 1 Samuel 25,' Andrews University Seminary Studies, Vol 41 No 1 (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2003), 45. Found online at http://www.auss.info/auss_publication_file.php?pub_id=1051.
  2. Ibid.