During the tribal confederacy of the Judges period, the Israelites encountered problems with faithfulness and idolatry. Those problems were different from other nations in that they were defined by their covenant to the Lord. But once Israel had a king, an additional temptation was added: becoming a nation like any other nation. Certainly, God’s power was operative, for instance, in the selection of Saul and David and the ongoing life of the people, especially in light of the threat of the nearby Philistines. But still, Yahweh alone was Israel’s king. But would the people remember that?
On the other hand, the possibilities of monarchy gave rise to the hope for a future king who would reunite the people and regain and surpass the possibilities of peace and prosperity--as we read in the famous messianic passages that we specially embrace during Advent and Christmas, like Isaiah 7:10-17, 9:2-7, and 11:1-9.
Within these stories, David emerges as a kind of key symbol for God’s rule. God’s rulership through David’s line revealed God's remarkable commitment to his people via David. And since David is identified with Jerusalem (Zion) in his selection of that place as capital, Zion became identified as God’s own city, the city of God's peace (Ps. 46, 48, 76, and others).(3) Of course, the line of David, also celebrated in the psalms (2, 20, 31, 45, and others) connects to the later messianic hope that grows in Israel’s history and, for Christians, finds fulfillment in Jesus. The upcoming books of Ezra and Nehemiah record the post-exilic efforts to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple and to reestablish the people on the Land. (9) That post-exilic hope is understood in the New Testament as being fulfilled in Christ.
The strange plague story, then, points us in roundabout ways to Jesus—whom we worship, whom we call upon in times of trouble like these.
1.What has your prayer life been like during the pandemic? How has your spiritual life suffered or been helped during times of isolation and worry?
2.The plague story is another example of David’s character: when he messed up, he messed up big-time, but he always realized, returned to God, and began again. How do failure and trouble potentially led to an excellent prayer life?