July: The City of Peace

July: The City of Peace

7 July Pentecost 7: 2 Samuel 5: 1–10 

Jerusalem. The name of the city evokes all manner of responses. In our own time, it has been the focal point for bitterly-contested claims about land. On a high point in the city, the sacred Jewish site of Mount Zion, sits the gleaming gold dome of a Muslim holy building. It has been contested territory for decades, ever since the modern state of Israel was established. Today, both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims claim Jerusalem as the capital city of their contested territory. Ironically, the name could well mean “the city of peace” (combining two Semitic roots, yry=foundation, shlm=peace). Even in his day, David used the site as a means to his own political ends; he takes the city from its Jebusite inhabitants and builds a foundation where God’s holiness could be reinforced and celebrated. Any imperfections of impurities—the blind, the lame—will be barred from it. The city forms a stronghold for David, as he consolidates his power in the face of local resistance. Jerusalem has always been a contested location. 

14 July 2024 Pentecost 8; 2 Samuel 6: 1–19

The ark of the covenant had long been a focal point for people in Israel. It had travelled with them from the wilderness days, was important in the conquest of the land, and was captured for a time by the Philistines. It then seemed to have less prominence in the time of Saul, before David uses it for his purposes. In this week’s story, David effects a change in the role played by the ark. It is brought into Jerusalem and stays grounded there; in due course, a permanent temple will be built on the site under Solomon. The death of the mere mortal Uzzah because he touched the holy ark occurs because of the holiness of the ark, as the dwelling place of God. The ark in the city signals that God is present. The way that David welcomed the ark into the city underlines the reverence and awe that was due towards God. A wonderful festival is held. From that time onwards, the ark remains on Zion, where the temple will become the focus of piety. Another transition is taking place, from a holy artefact that was mobile, to a fixed, permanent house for God. 

21 July 2024 Pentecost 9: 2 Samuel 7:1–14 

A king forever. That is the promise of these well-known words, which have informed the way that followers of Jesus would talk about him. The words are given initially to David, only the second king of Israel, but the one who would provide descendants for half a millennium. The words of the prophet Nathan are reported and remembered over those centuries as validation of the power of those kings, even though so many of them “did evil in the sight of the Lord”. Of course, we recognise the play on words that occurs in what Nathan says. David understands God to be promising a “house” which is “a house of cedar” (v.7), but God actually intends to establish “offspring after you” (v.12) who will “establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (v.13). In the years to come, God will stand by the leaders of Israel, punishing them for their sins, but also forgiving them and loving them at each step along the way. Might our own leaders be open to that close relationship with God. 

28 July 2024 Pentecost 10: 2 Samuel 11:1–15 

David’s adultery with Bathsheba is known and remembered through the ages. It was a shameful demonstration of sheer power, expressed through sexual violence. David’s arrangement of the murder of Uriah ought also to be known and remembered through the ages. He acted with cunning, deception, cruelty, and self-interest. The whole sequence of events is completely unbecoming. What model of leadership is offered by this tale? The compilers of the sagas of Israel could have skimmed over this episode, allowing David to be painted in a resolutely positive light. But they included the story; and David the Adulterer and Murderer sits alongside David the Harpist and Psalmist in Jewish and Christian traditions. He exemplifies the complexities of every human being. He is Everyperson. 

Rev. Dr John Squires is the Editor of With Love to the World.


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