Actions and Reactions


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 19; 150, 1 Samuel 23:7-18, Romans 11:33-12:2, Matthew 25:14-30

David had many gifts: bravery, loyalty, cunning, musicality, and most importantly a heart for the Lord. A gift he seemed to lack – or at least to employ consistently – was foresight.

After he and his men fled Nob, they found their way to the gated city of Keilah in Judah. Still pursued by Saul, David asked the Lord whether the citizens of Keilah would turn him over. God’s answer was yes … but that shouldn’t have been a surprise. After all, Saul had slaughtered the citizens of the last city where he sought refuge, so Keilah didn’t have much incentive to protect him. David’s remorse for the fate of Nob didn’t seem to make a lasting impression, as he didn’t bother to ask about the safety of Keilah should he stay.

Nob and Keilah foreshadow David’s rule as king of Israel, during which time he would make some impulsive decisions with terrible yet utterly foreseeable consequences. What can we learn from all this?

First it’s yet another example – along with Moses, Samson, Rahab, Paul, etc. – of God working through imperfect people as they actually are. This should comfort us when we screw up, and remind us God still loves people though they do terrible things.

Second it shows us that being loved and forgiven doesn’t mean God is some supernatural fixer who relieves us from the consequences of our own decisions. The consequences themselves are often God’s opportunity to help us learn and grow. It’s like the bumper sticker says: “Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reason is that you’re stupid and make bad decisions.”

Third it suggests we have some responsibility for even unintended consequences of our actions. When conning a priest out of some bread and a sword culminated in the murder of eighty-five priests, David told the one surviving priest of Nob, “I am responsible for the lives of all your father’s house” though it was Saul’s man who’d done the killing. It is results more than intentions which obligate us.

David’s story is like everyone’s story: a lesson of God’s constant love for an inconstant humanity.

Additional Reading:
Read more about today’s passage from Matthew in Moving in the direction of justice.

Comfort: God’s love does not depend on your perfection.

Challenge: Once a day for a week, pick one choice you make and try to map out the repercussions it has. For example, the pros and cons – for you and other people before and after you – of your meal choices.

Prayer: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

Discussion: How do you handle decisions you later regret?

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