Not always black and white…

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Scripture: 2 Samuel 21:1 Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David inquired of the Lord. The Lord said, “There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.” So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them. … David said to the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you?…They said to the king, “The man who consumed us and planned to destroy us (former King Saul), so that we should have no place in all the territory of Israel— let seven of his sons be handed over to us, and we will impale them before the Lord at Gibeon on the mountain of the Lord.” The king said, “I will hand them over.”…he gave them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they impaled them on the mountain before the Lord.

Observation: This is a pretty gruesome story. Apparently, former King Saul had promised the Gibeonites peace only to later renege on that promise and make war with them. In the bible this is known as “spilling innocent blood” – which was a major no-no with God the Father. Though Saul was already dead, his people Israel were held responsible for his sins, resulting in the famine. King David set things right by giving to the Gibeonites seven “sons” of Saul, who were put to death to settle the score. God lifted the famine.

Application: This coming Sunday is called Reformation Sunday on the church calendar. It’s a day when we remember the early church reformers of the 15th and 16th centuries, including Martin Luther. One of the most powerful principals to arise from the Protestant Reformation is called “sola scriptura” (Latin for “scripture alone”). In other words, we do not turn to traditions or popes or councils or any other earthly authority to determine the will and ways of God. We seek guidance in the word of God, the scriptures. I am personally a big fan of this principal as it keeps the church accountable for our life together.

That said “sola scriptura” is not as easy as it sounds. Why? Because the scriptures are not uniform in terms of the guidance they give. For instance, it would be unthinkable for the New Testament church to hand over seven young men to be impaled. Yet one could make the argument such an act would be perfectly in alignment with scripture – pointing to today’s passage as evidence God would condone such an act. Trust me, this is not the only example of such barbarity conducted with the assent, if not outright blessing, of God the Father. Here’s an inconvenient truth:

God’s engagement with people, and peoples’ engagement with God, changed over time.

As much as we’d like to make scripture “black and white” it is not. Faithful, intelligent people can read the same bible and come to different conclusions about the guidance it provides. I’m not saying we can “never” discern the guidance of scripture. I’m just saying it’s not always the slam dunk some make it out to be.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, your Word is indeed a “lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” as the psalmist writes in Psalm 119. However, we don’t always agree on the guidance your Word offers in a given situation. Give us grace to assume a posture of humility in attempting to discern your will for us. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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