Monday, May 29, 2017

May 29

II Samuel 14:1-15:22; John 18:1-24; Psalm 119:97-112; Proverbs 16:8-9

So much betrayal today.  Betrayal and conniving against the king and the King, but with a couple shining examples of faithfulness, too.  I love that Scripture doesn't leave us in the bleakness; there is always hope.

First we've got the manipulation of Joab, used to persuade David to bring Absalom back from his self-imposed exile.  The wise woman tells a story, much like Nathan did earlier when he confronted David about his adultery with Bathsheba.  The wise woman's narrative is more murky, however; while Nathan argued for justice, the woman pleads for mercy.  Her "son," like Absalom, deserves death for the murder of his brother, but she begs him to be spared in order that she might have support and her dead husband's name be carried on (see II Sam. 14:7).  It's at this point that the comparison between the fictitious son and Absalom breaks down - not only was Absalom's murder of Amnon pre-meditated and executed in cold-blood, he is not the only son of a widow.  His life doesn't keep anyone else from destitution or despair.  But the story marries the two sons, making it easier for David to ignore his responsibility to punish Absalom for Amnon's death.

Then there's the outright, though underhanded, betrayal by Absalom.  Though his father has allowed his return (II Sam. 14:21) and embraced him (vs. 33), Absalom repays this clemency with treachery.  Through false promises (II Sam. 15:4) and disingenuous welcome (vs. 5), he "[steals] the hearts of the men of Israel" (vs. 6) over the course of four years.  He contrives a situation to make it appear that he has more support than he actually does (see vs. 11) and uses his father's own counselors to bolster his position.  David reacts in a similar fashion as he did to the threats of Saul and goes into hiding.  Ittai the Gittite, though "a foreigner, and exile from [his] homeland" (vs. 19), stands out as a model of loyalty to David, showing all that Absalom ought to have demonstrated.

In our New Testament reading, too, we see conniving and betrayal.  Judas' treachery is more egregious - and Scripture calls a spade a spade when he is referred to as the one "who betrayed [Jesus]" (Jn. 18:2) and as "the traitor" (vs. 5) - but Peter's might have been more painful to Jesus.  It is clearly a significant event; it's one of only a handful of events that appears in all four gospel accounts.  And when contrasted with the faithful support of "the other disciple" (vs. 15-16), Peter's abandonment stands out even more sharply.

I'm thinking of the ways I've been manipulated and betrayed...and of the ways I've manipulated and betrayed others.  My trust has been abused, and I have abused the trust of others.  On both fronts, I'm reassured: on the side of being betrayed, I'm in good company; on the side of betraying, I am yet redeemable, like Peter will be.  Even in the darkest sin, there is still hope.  Hallelujah.

- Sarah Marsh

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