Monday, May 20, 2013

Spiritual Leaders - Honor and Dishonor

Today is the first day of our twentieth week, reading the Bible through in a year together.  Our scriptures this week are:

  •  2 Sam 6; 1 Chr 13; Acts 23; Psalm 60
  •  1 Chron 14-16; Acts 24
  •  2 Sam 7-8; 1 Chr 17; Acts 25; Ps 132
  •  2 Sam 9-10; 1 Chr 18-19; Acts 26; Ps 89
  •  2 Sa 11-12; 1 Chr 20; Acts 27; Ps 51, 32
David dancing before the Lord
Today, I want to look at the honor and dishonor of two spiritual leaders of God's people.  2 Samuel 6 tells the story of David leading the ark into Jerusalem, and the example of godliness that he showed the people.  Though he is no priest, David makes sacrifices to God as he leads the procession.  He worships right along with the people, discarding his royal robes and dancing before the Lord in only an ephod (a thin tunic worn as underwear).  When his wife Michal grows angry about his un-royal behavior, she mocks him, saying, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants' female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself (v. 20 ESV) !”  Yet, David is not so concerned with his own dignity as much as he's concerned with honoring God with his behavior.  His worship is unrestrained, unfettered, unhindered by social convention.  Holding nothing back, he gives himself completely to his God-inspired dance.  His un-kingly response surprises us even today  In verses 21-22 (ESV) he says, “It was before the Lordwho chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord—and I will celebrate before the Lord I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.”

Though she certainly has other reasons to be upset with David (2 Sam 3:12-16), the subject of the conversation between David and Michal is honor versus dishonor.  She is concerned with the king's decorum; he is occupied adulation of his Great King.  He is less concerned with honoring himself, and more concerned with honoring God.  Though his worship is contemptible (other translations render this word as "undignified") in her eyes, it is beautiful in Gods sight.  Besides this, David has always been a man of the people.  Coming from humble beginnings as a shepherd, he finds it difficult not to worship alongside his people.  Sitting on a dignified dais, aloof from his kinsmen, was never David's style.  

Contrast this to the example of self-glorification that we see in the high priest of Israel, in our Acts 23 narrative of Paul's interrogation.  Verses 1-5 (ESV) say:

And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God's high priest?” And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”

This high priest, whose actions were certainly un-priestly, was so concerned with his own sense of power and importance that when Paul's words threatened his exalted status and doctrine that denied the Messiah, he ordered Paul to be struck.  He violated the law that says that the accused must be allowed to speak in his own behalf (Jn 7:51), and he also violated the law of love.  Ananias was despised as a religious ruler, and was assassinated in AD 60.  For us, he represents the kind of religious leader that is self-important and dignified, yet who does not embody the spirit of Christ.

Soon, the people of Antioch will be selecting new deacons.  Perhaps your church will be choosing new leaders soon, as well.  The question I ask you is this: what kinds of leaders will you choose?  Those who are interested in their own dignity and the respect they get from others, or those who are only concerned with giving pleasure to God rather than to people?  I hope that as you participate in your church's selection process, you'll look for the kind of person who is willing to be undignified for Jesus.  And I hope that you will be "even more undignified than this" as you give your whole self to God.

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