Tag Archives: bethlehem

Distraction from the main thing – Characters: David & Goliath, Part 2

26 Nov
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Have you ever had this happen: you’re in the office drafting an email about an rather tricky interpersonal relationship in your company, and you have a flash of brilliance. You’re about to solve the problem. As you’re typing your thoughts, the phone rings. You answer it, and the call lasts for a few minutes. That’s not very long, but long enough to divert your attention. You hang up the phone, turn your eyes back to the email, remember that you were on to something good, but you have no recollection of that thought. It’s gone. The phone call distracted you.

Distraction is rampant in our world. In our examination of David and Goliath, we’re going to see how distraction rears its ugly head. Watch David, though, and perhaps we might learn a thing or two about how to deal with distraction in the middle of important or tense situations.

In Part 1, we set the stage for our famous story. David vs. Goliath. But so far we’ve only met Goliath, this hulk of a man who struck fear in the hearts and minds of the armies of Israel. Now, as we continue the story as told in 1st Samuel, chapter 17, verse 12-24, the scene shifts from the battlefront back to the town of Bethlehem, which is where David’s family lives.

We learn that David’s father, Jesse, is well-advanced in years, and David’s three oldest brothers were serving in the army. Jesse gives David some food to take to his brothers who were in the army with Saul.  David takes the food from Bethlehem to the battle ground, and he gives the food to the keeper of supplies.

Then David runs to the battle lines and greets his brothers. At the same time, Goliath steps out from the Philistine side and calls for an Israelite to fight him, like Goliath has been doing each day, morning and evening, for 40 days.  As they have done every one of those 40 days, the army of Israel runs from Goliath in great fear. 

There is David watching all this.  We think David is in the vicinity of 16 years old at this time.  I’m guessing he is wide-eyed, as this situation plays out in front of him.  We don’t know if this was all new for David.  Maybe he had observed the army before, but maybe this was his first time with his brothers and the army.

In verses 25-27 it seems that, though Goliath had been defying the army of Israel for 40 days, this was the first that David is learning about it.  Look at what David says in verse 26:

“What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

Hear that?  From David’s mouth, a beacon of trust in God in the middle of what had been nothing but fear for 40 days.  David is incredulous that anyone, even a massive giant like Goliath, has been allowed to defy God.  It is a glimmer of righteous anger, of a new day. 

Before we get too excited about David, though, we need to remember that David’s three oldest brothers are right there too.  Imagine how they felt when their little teenager brother starts in with his righteous anger!  David’s questions, whether he meant it this way or not, are essentially confronting his brothers too for not stepping forward to fight Goliath!  And if you have siblings, you know how that could go over.  You think his oldest brother, Eliab, is going to look at David and say, “Thank you, little brother.  Thank you for asking those hard questions.  Thank you for pointing out our weakness and our failings.  I needed that.  I will go fight Goliath.”  Ha!

Not a chance.  Here’s what Eliab says in verse 28:

“Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”

Oh man, Eliab is hot. It is entirely possible that he is not just making stuff up to get at David because he was embarrassed that his little brother called him out.  It could be that Eliab had watched David for years and knew this was a tendency in David.  Maybe David was nosy, maybe he was annoying to his older brothers.  We don’t know.  It could be that Eliab is just angry that David confronted him, and so he is playing it off by accusing David of being irresponsible with the sheep, and just coming to the battle to be entertained.  Eliab has a point. David could have left the food with the keeper of supplies and returned to Bethlehem.  But he didn’t.  He ran to the battle lines.  His brothers know this.  They probably saw David do this kind of thing back in Bethlehem many times.  This is such normal sibling drama. 

How will David respond?  Look at verse 29.  At first he responds exactly like you would expect in a sibling fight: “Now what have I done?”  That line is loaded with history.  You only say that if you’ve been confronted many times before.  So this was clearly a repeat issue between David and his brothers.  Then he says, “Can’t I even speak?”  Also a loaded statement, right?  My guess is that David had opened his mouth in front of his brothers many times, and they didn’t appreciate it.  We are on the brink of a full-blown fight between brothers, which is kinda crazy when you consider that the setting is a battle between two armies, and Goliath is out there in the middle calling for someone to fight him.  But just as quickly as the fight between David and Eliab flares up, it is done, because David makes a very interesting choice at this point. 

Look at verse 30.  David turns away.  It seems he knows nothing productive will happen in a spat with Eliab, so he shuts it down and moves on.  Wise move.  Siblings, are you paying attention to David?  Most sibling fights are totally unproductive and unnecessary. So David chooses to disengage, to turn away. But David is far from done.  He could just take Eliab’s words as a verbal spanking and return to Bethlehem in frustration.  Instead, he moves away from the distraction of his brothers because there is a much more important matter at hand: the defiant enemy giant, Goliath.  And David is incredulous that no one is stepping up.

In the next post, David faces even more distraction!

A healthy way to face bitterness and loss – Characters: Ruth, Part 3

20 Nov
Photo by Toimetaja tõlkebüroo on Unsplash

Have you ever been bitter and angry about the pain that life has brought your way. If so, you’re not alone. So often we are dealt a horrible hand, and at no fault of our own, we are faced with loss, ruin, or sickness. In those moments, bitterness can take root. Maybe its not you. Maybe you are close to someone who is struggling with bitterness. Whether it is you or a friend, is there anything you can do to move in a healthy direction? As we continue the story of Ruth, there is something we can do, and Ruth will show us.

In the previous post we observed Ruth’s amazing reaction to tragedy. In our world we see many different reactions to tragedy.  We have felt them within ourselves.  In this post let’s discover Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi’s reaction to the tragedy when she and Ruth return to Bethlehem. If you want to read for yourselves, open a Bible to Ruth chapter 1, verse 19 and following.

Some of your Bibles will have text notes connected to some of the words in this section because Naomi, in her reaction to tragedy, uses some creative wordplay regarding the meaning of her names.  Naomi means “pleasant”, but she says, “Don’t call me that.  Instead call me ‘Mara’,” which means “bitterness.”  Why? Naomi is upset at God.  When she left Israel with a husband and two sons, a full family, now ten years later, she has returned to Israel, empty. 

If you’ve been through loss, you get what Naomi is saying. Just the loss of one person is deeply painful. But Naomi has just had her husband and two sons taken from her. If you were walking with Naomi through this, what would you say to her? How would you counsel her? Many of us get extremely angry or bitter at God for lesser things. When we hear Naomi pouring out the pain in our soul, then, we don’t blame her.

Let’s not forget, Ruth, however. She is right there hearing Naomi say this. I wonder what was going through Ruth’s mind as she listened to her mother-in-law.

Ruth could potentially hear Naomi say, “Call me ‘bitter’ because I have returned empty,” and think to themselves, “Why is Naomi saying that?  What about me?  Am I worth nothing to her?  She shouldn’t say ’empty”! She has me!” 

It would be very easy for Ruth to join right in with Naomi’s bitterness but direct it back at Naomi.  How many times have you experienced something like that in your family relationships?  Have you ever thought, “I can’t believe they said that!”  Or “They are taking me for granted.”  Or “I’m not being treated right.”  Or “Look at all I have done for them, and this is the thanks I get?”  Ruth could easily have thought to herself “Wow, lady, I just lost my husband too, and yet I decided to leave my homeland, my people, and travel all this way to start a whole new life, just to support you…and you give me this.  You call yourself ’empty’?  I’ll show you ’empty’…I’m out of here.”  And Ruth could head back home.

But Ruth doesn’t do that!

No, her reaction shows no sign of bitterness.  Instead look at chapter 2, verse 1.  We meet a new character: Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s deceased husband. Into the pain and bitterness, Ruth says, “I’ll go to work.”  She decides to pick up grain to make ends meet for herself and Naomi.  When she goes to work, she ends up in Boaz’ fields.  Boaz shows up and does a double-take when he sees Ruth, saying “Who is that?”  He learns her story, and he is amazed. Here again, I urge you to read the story for yourself in Ruth chapter 2, starting at verse 8 and following. Ruth and Boaz have a very nice conversation. After the work day is over, Ruth returns to Naomi with a bundle full of food.  At home, when Naomi learns what happened, her mood shifts dramatically from bitterness to joy! The two widows have been in Bethlehem for only one day, and the Lord has provided. 

Did Ruth get noticed because she is beautiful?  Maybe.  We don’t know.  Did she get noticed because she was new?  Maybe, certainly Boaz realizes someone new is there, and if Ruth was beautiful, I’m sure that didn’t hurt.  But when Boaz hears her story, then his heart is warmed.  He learns about a foreign lady who has left her people to help her mother-in-law!  Through this we learn about the kind of person Boaz is, as he is willing to help a foreigner, which was something else that God put in the law.  God’s people were to welcome the foreigner into their land. 

So just as Ruth has gone out of her comfort zone, sticking her neck out for Naomi, Boaz decides to the do the same thing for Ruth!  Even though she is a foreigner and immigrant, he welcomes her and blesses her with loads of food.

Naomi also responds with joy because she has inside information about Boaz.  She knows who he is.  She tells Ruth, “Boaz is one of our kinsman-redeemers.” 

What is Naomi talking about?  What is a Kinsman Redeemer?  Remember the Levirate marriage I mentioned in Part 2?  Widowed girl marries her brother-in-law?  By the time of the era Ruth lives in, it seems that Levirate marriage had expanded to be even more generous than the specific law required.  That’s a good thing. That means the people of Israel got not only the Law, but the heart behind the law.  They got the principle that God was trying to teach them: help those in need!  Just because there wasn’t a brother-in-law available, that didn’t mean the other relatives were off the hook.  Instead, the levirate practice extended outward to other relatives.  Cousins and uncles could be counted upon to care for Naomi and Ruth.  They were kinsman, family, who could redeem or rescue her. 

For Naomi and Ruth, therefore, Boaz, as a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimilech, was one of their kinsman-redeemer. 

At this point we learn that Ruth continues her job with Boaz.  As we continue reading in Ruth chapter 3, the author doesn’t tell us how much time passes.  It is enough time, though, that Naomi seems to have gotten over her bitterness, and she begins to play matchmaker for her daughter-in-law.  Naomi knows that Ruth is young enough to get remarried and start a family, and perhaps Naomi saw romantic sparks fly between Ruth and Boaz. So Naomi concocts a plan.  Get ready.  It might sound bizarre.  …And we’ll learn about the plan in the next post!