The Messy Work of Redemption
by Austin Ariail
Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh. In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the Lord said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’” So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.
And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him. And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, also carpenters and masons who built David a house. And David knew that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.
2 Samuel 5:1-5, 10-12
Scripture tells us that prior to Saul’s assent as king, the story of Israel, God’s people, was an absolute mess. Any production company out of Hollywood that could try and portray the book of Judges would surely find their cinematic venture slapped with an NA-17 rating. Then along comes the monarch Saul. Saul’s reign is controlled chaos. The people of Israel have a king, but a sinful king. A king that becomes jealous, indignant, then bloodthirsty for a shepherd boy, yet a promised king, out the tribe of Judah named David. Saul’s demise and David’s ascension, as the first five chapters of 2 Samuel describe, bring fresh visions from the days of the judges. Progress – from judges to a monarch – has not made the times any better. We know this because the gruesomeness and misery are not spared from Saul and David’s story. And it has not been spared from our own. Sin has not slowly faded from the scene of the world, in fact its only gotten worse. Sin, ours and others, creates a complexity wondering what good can be found or what good can come from this broken and fallen world.
Then naturally the question arises, “Where is God in all of this?” This suffering, this brokenness, this pain. The answer is simple to articulate, hard to understand, and more importantly the answer is pregnant with a journey: God is in the midst working to redeem and make all things right.
What’s our response as God is busy making things right, redeeming the pain and suffering of a broken world? There are, perhaps, a few answers. But one that arises from our story is lament.
The tragic death of Saul and Jonathan comes to David at the beginning of 2 Samuel. Midway through chapter one, after David has dispensed justice, the imminent king laments (2 Sam. 1:17). Instead of jubilation for the demise of his enemy Saul, David is grief-stricken. Philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff says that lament is “giving voice to the suffering that accompanies deep loss, whatever that loss may be.” David knew and felt the loss. He voiced that loss to God. Despite the deep pain that Saul caused David, David’s lament over Saul and Jonathan was filled with honor, love, and pain (2 Sam. 1:19-27).
In lament we name what ails our souls, bodies, and hearts. We cry out to God for deliverance, and then we wait. As the apostle Paul tells us our suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 5:3-5). While we wait for deliverance, we hope. Hope: the deepest, gut-level aching and belief that the God who is making all things right will do so. We hope that God will hear our cries for deliverance and act, and if those cries are not answered, we trust, and we hope that those things will be made right and new in the age to come.
Sin, suffering, and lament are entirely appropriate for this season of Lent. We are reminded of our own frailty, but with a heightened anticipation for Easter morning. In the midst of suffering, while we lament, we also have hope because of what Jesus has accomplished.
Sally Lloyd-Jones in the Jesus Story Book Bible tells us of our hope:
Even though he knew he would suffer, God had a plan – a magnificent dream. One day, he would get his children back. One day, he would make the world their perfect home again. And one day, he would wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Before they left the garden, God whispered a promise to Adam and Eve: “It will not always be so! I will come to rescue you! And when I do, I’m going to do battle against the snake. I’ll get rid of the sin and the dark and the sadness you let in here. I’m coming back for you!” And he would. One day, God himself would come.
As we begin our journey towards Jerusalem for the next six weeks, let us lament for what pains us, what we are suffering, what grieves our hearts and souls. But let us also remember that what is will not always be. A King is coming to make all things new, all things right.
So come quickly Lord Jesus, come.