This week’s reading begins with David capturing Jerusalem, which will eventually become the heart of Israel and the home of God’s temple. It ends with what might be David’s biggest defeat, his destructive sin with Bathsheba.
Few names in Scripture elicit more mental imagery than David. Jesus, certainly. Moses, most likely. But whom else? David and Goliath. The city of David. David, the warrior king. David, the Psalmist. David, the devoted friend. David and Bathsheba. David, the man after God’s own heart.
After all that has happened to Israel since the nation crossed the Jordan to fulfill God’s promise to Abraham, one would think that these images and memories would be hard-pressed into the hearts of the children of Israel and serve as a vivid reminder of God’s power and grace. But no.
The past several days of reading have revealed a myriad of rules, regulations, and procedures that God introduces to form the nation of Israel, both as a community and as His chosen people. Frankly, some of these rules don’t conform to our thought processes today, but comparing the emergence of the nation of Israel to our contemporary society is not something that will make sense in several ways.
Too often, I think, I fall into this trap that lets me think that I have accomplished something spiritually; that I have taken possession of my place in the Kingdom due to my own righteousness. What a mistake: to receive God’s grace and His blessings and then to convince myself somehow that I have done something worthy of those blessings.
In this week’s reading, we have the bizarre story of Balaam and Balak (the king of Moab); a disappointing sin that causes the deaths of 24,000 Israelites; and, two lengthy addresses from Moses to the nation of Israel.