Observations of a Pilgrim in His Own World – A Royal Allegory

Saul and David *oil on canvas *130 x 164.5 cm *circa 1651 - 1654 and circa 1655 - 1658
Saul and David – Rembrandt
(oil on canvas, 130 x 164.5 cm, circa 1651 – 1658)

“Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.” – 1 Samuel 8:7

(You’ll need to read the stories of Saul, David and Solomon to fully appreciate the following conclusions.)

In Israel’s first three kings I’m seeing this pattern of justice/mercy/faithfulness—where the latter is weightier than the former. (Jesus spells it out in Matt. 23:23.)

Saul was, at best, double-minded (James 1:8). On the receiving end of justice’s “live by the sword, die by the sword” (Matt. 26:52), he refused the grace of God that was repeatedly offered.

David, a “man after God’s own heart” was conflicted. He was a warrior of justice who was torn by the mercy he wanted to extend (Saul and Absalom). He was also the willing recipient of the mercy of God (Bathsheba and the census) that indeed triumphed over the judgment that was due (James 2:13).

Solomon rested in the faithfulness of God. The personification of James’ “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God,” he also basked in the excesses of the world. His kingdom, however, was destined to fall apart (1 Kings 11). And everything he did proved to be, “vanity” (see Ecclesiastes).

“What’s the point?” we might then ask—accomplish all things and it’s like spices losing their savor—I might as well have failed to begin with!

But satisfaction won’t be found in this world—the best we can do is break even (“For God will bring every deed into judgment – Ecc. 12:14).

So I tend to think of Solomon’s Song of Songs” as the allegorical answer to the futility of Ecclesiastes.  The yoking of the biblical bride and bridegroom.

This world isn’t about accomplishment or failure. It’s about knowing God (John 17:3). A hard lesson because it wrenches us away from the familiar. But only God has meaning as it turns out (only he is good – Matt. 19:17).

So Paul concludes at one point, “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).

This isn’t piety. It’s just the truth.

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