Fit to be King,
Fit for a King
a sermon based on 2 Samuel 5:1-5; 9-10
by Rev. Thomas Hall
Sometimes I like to take a close look
at biblical characters because they mirror our own lives. Their stories arent just
isolated, dusty biographies, but windows into our own motives, experiences, and storied
lives. During these summer Sundays, I invite you to step away from the same old, same old
and into the stories of David as he lengthens his stride and enlarges his embrace.
If you were a shrewd listener this morning, you may have noticed that someone has
grabbed their scissors and pulled a cut and paste job on this passage. Did you notice that
some pieces were missing when this story was read? Why would that be? Someone sitting on a
committee somewhere decided that we should not hear whats written in verses 6-8, so
they simply cut it out of the assigned lesson. But heres what the missing piece
The king and his men marched to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the
inhabitants of the land, who said to David. "You will not come in here, even the
blind and the lame will turn you back"-thinking, "David cannot come in
Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion, which is now the
city of David. David had said on that day, "Whoever would strike down the Jebusites,
let him get up the water shaft to attack the lame and the blind, those who hate
Therefore it is said,
"The blind and the lame shall not come into the house."
What a difficult text! What harsh words about the blind and the lame! No wonder the
lectionary committee cut them out of the passage - they seem to be hurtful words about
physically-challenged folks. I wouldnt want somebody to use my daughters
asthmatic condition to make a point. In fact, I find myself standing with the very ones
that are being disparaged. Wouldnt you want to stand with the very ones being thrown
around in the conversation? And that last line is so sad-Therefore, certain people
"shall not come into this place." Thats so sad. Reminds me of Rosa Parks
being told to sit in the back of the bus all over again. Certain people getting pushed
around like nobodies because they lack beauty or grace or age or wealth.
So I went to the commentaries because they have all the answers to perplexing problems.
Opened them up and read, "This is a difficult text." I thanked the authors very
much. But consider with me, first of all, the lame and the blind are mentioned three
times-like a neon sign pointing this phrase out lest we gloss over it. Second, David
doesnt hate these folks. In a couple of weeks well discover that David is
practically going to adopt a kid who cannot walk. And finally, we discover that in the
larger fabric of the story, Jesus son of David will go out of his way to welcome the very
ones who are handicapped or physically challenged. No, I think something else is going on
here that we may never fully uncover.
Allow me to reconstruct this hard saying through the imagination of Jewish scholars
that may get us to the heart of the story. Comes out of the 14th century.
In this interpretation, the blind and the lame were actually not people at all! They
were two huge stone and wood statues designed to scare the geewilikers out of people. Not
only that, they roughly parodied two of Israels heroes-old Isaac who could not see
and thus got hoodwinked and young Jacob who limped from his all-night wrestling match with
the angel. The Jebusites had twisted these heroes into two gargantuan evil idols-demonic
figures with misshapen bodies and distorted faces to scare anyone caught close enough to
their fortress. We do have evidence of other groups who did exactly the same thing.
But one commentator adds a little more imagination to the story. Do you remember that
scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy and Toto and the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the
Cowardly Lion encounter the Great Oz? They are so scared that the Lion breaks ranks and
tries to exit, the scarecrow faints, and everyone is overcome with fear. What they
dont know is that behind the curtain, the professor is working the levers and dials
to spoof and scare them away. Well, thats apparently what the Jebusites were
doing-they had ingeniously rigged a hydraulic system to the huge statues so that, along
with smoke and levers, the stone figures would appear to belch smoke and water and move.
No wonder no one ever attacked the Jebusites!
Parents probably scared their children into obedience with stories about the Jebusites
demons. Young people, scared each other around summer camp fires with the Jebusite version
of "I Know what You Did Last Summer."
Im not sure given the culture of the day that I would really go out of my way to
visit the Blair witch that lived in Jerusalem. So why would David want to go to such a
David is making a new start. He is being asked to rule over the north and the south of
Israel. He needs neutral turf. A place where both groups can come. He knows something
else: Jerusalem is not haunted by demons. Hes heard enough out on the desert-bits
and pieces from Jebusite refugees to realize that these grotesque things werent
demons at all, but hooked up to an ingenious mechanical system. He knows old blind Isaac
and limping Jacob are frauds-pipes, pulleys, hinges, and smoke. So he knows he has to get
up the water shaft and destroy to plumbing into order to conquer the city.
Remarkably, Jerusalem, lived up to its name when David attacked "the city of
peace." The battle was quick and bloodless. Turns out, behind all that apparatus were
weak-kneed types-the Jebusites turned out to be all bark and no bite. David, in turn
employed the Jebusites to work with him. And so enemies join Davids group and
together they begin a working relationship.
That, according to a group of Jewish scholars, is what was really meant by the phrase,
"the lame and the blind."
So what is this story about? I think we have on our hands a story about newness. Two
things are new: a new leader and a new place. Gods future for Israel is tied up with
new leadership and a new place. Its interesting isnt it, that at the moment
neither David nor Jerusalem is anything near "holy." David has been marginal for
years. Hes been sleeping in a different bed each night for as long as he can
remember. Hes been out raiding others, running for his life. David is not holy. And
Jerusalem. Jerusalem is at the moment named after a Jebusite idol, shelem. Jerusalem is
not a holy place. What an unpromising story this is! Were hearing words about
conquest, the possible exclusion of less abled persons, a town named after a Jebusite god.
Here we are! A new "leader" and a new place in ministry in our church. In
some ways, perhaps our own story at Swarthmore may seem as unpromising as Jerusalem
was-youve been through some stuff that no congregation should have to go through.
There has been a lot of pain within this congregation. Some have felt the pain acutely and
even yet feel excluded from this worship place.
And what about this new guy whos come riding into town? Whats he
going to be
like? Will he be a controller? Sure, weve heard stories about his former
congregation. But will he to try to turn us into them? And how much change is he going to
try to make us accommodate to? Someones asking, "Yeah, and how much money will
it cost?" Will this new guy change our worship style? More questions than answers in
a story of newness, Im afraid.
But hear the Good News! God can turn leaders and congregations into holy persons and
holy places for ministry. David and Jerusalem may have started out with a limited vision,
but God expanded the vision of both. "David grew greater and greater" - that
phrase in the Hebrew language could be translated that David developed "a longer
stride and larger embrace." That is, David grew in his ability to include more and
more persons in his life. He grew to welcome persons who had worked so hard on his behalf,
but also to welcome those who were "lame and blind," persons who were wounded
and unsure about all this.
This story begins with what may be an exclusion of folks - but its not going to
end that way. God will expand the vision of Jerusalem to include all people and
possibilities: "I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven
from God . . . he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning
and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away"
So God will continue to work on both of us. God is after organic growth in our lives.
Not just changes. God will take everything from our past-even the garbage-and make
spiritual compost out of it. And then God will assimilate our stories and experiences into
a growing, holy. Amen.