Quiet Lives

The Apostle Paul once wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy, strongly implying that we should live “peaceful and quiet lives.” I have to say, I’m all for that. Peaceful and quiet is right up my alley. The older I get, the more I enjoy that kind of life.

To put it in context, Paul told Timothy to pray for those in authority indicating that the by-product of such prayer would be peace and tranquility. We know he was speaking of governmental authority because he mentioned kings. His assumption, I suppose, was that, if it went well for the king, it would also go well for the king’s subjects.

Ga-Ga Over St. Paul

This seems to indicate that Paul had a somewhat positive view of kings and others in authority. He certainly believed that God put those governmental figures in place and that he did it for our own good (see Romans 13:1-5). This is one of the many reasons a lot of folks aren’t exactly ga-ga over the teachings of St. Paul. Remember—he’s also the one who told women not to wear gold or pearls and to shut up and have children. I’m probably overstating that a bit, but not by much. But, as they say, I digress.

So, we are to pray for those in authority that we might live peaceful and quiet lives. I wish he would have added something about voting for solid, godly authoritarians—people who had our best interests at heart. I will give him the benefit of the doubt on that point because there wasn’t a whole lot of voting going on in the time of Paul. It probably never even crossed his mind that the hoi polloi would be electing their own leaders one day. After all, history showed him that people weren’t particularly good at choosing leaders. Remember that his namesake (Saul) was chosen among his people to be the first King of Israel. That, of course, didn’t go so well. They were better off without him.

Heartburn

Unfortunately, we in the United States seem to be following in the footsteps of those early Israelites. We are constantly electing leaders that tend to give us heartburn. It doesn’t matter what party we opt to place in power (usually it’s a hodgepodge of parties), we end up with more chaos than quiet. So much for living peaceful lives.

I can only surmise that Paul never foresaw a time when we would choose our own Mayors, Senators, and Representatives, et. al. If God was placing these politicians into their respective offices, at least we could blame him. As it is, we can only blame ourselves. And if we could choose a king, I highly doubt as to whether we would do much of a better job than the Hebrews. They begged God for a king. They ended up with Saul who was tall, dark, and handsome (1 Samuel 9:1-2). These are criteria not unlike the ones we seem to use today. Oy vey!

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

The Runt of the Litter

When the prophet Samuel approached Bethlehem, he had instructions from God to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be king. He was a tad nervous about anointing a new king while King Saul was still alive and kicking. Consequently, he did so under the guise of sacrificing a heifer to the Lord and worshiping with the locals.

Jesse and his sons were invited to the service, and Samuel, seeing what fine sons Jesse had produced, assumed the new king was among them. What he didn’t know was that not all of Jesse’s sons were present. He saw seven strapping young men, but God told him the future monarch was not there. That’s when the Lord issued the now famous statement, “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

The New King

When the Lord indicated that the new king wasn’t part of the gathering, Samuel must have been a bit more than confused. He asked Jesse if he had any more sons. There was, indeed, one more. His name was David, and he was tending sheep out in the field. I suspect that the baby of the family often gets left out of such things as neighborhood sacrifices. Still, the Lord had other ideas.

When Samuel heard that there was yet another son, he asked Jesse to send for him. Most English translations of Scripture tell us that Jesse simply told Samuel that “the youngest” was not present. There is one publication, however, (The Message Bible) that quotes Jesse in somewhat of a differing fashion. The Message has Jesse stating that “the runt” was out tending the sheep.

To understand this, we need to realize that The Message is not a translation for study but is a paraphrase designed to be a “reading Bible.” In other words, it is loosely translated in such a way that it can be easily read by laypeople in their own, modern-day language. The rock singer, Bono, from the group U2 has helped to make this version of Scripture famous by endorsing it and its author, Eugene Peterson. Frankly, it is an easy read as compared with the likes of the King James Version, for example.

An Interesting Perspective

Peterson inserted the term, runt, as a translation of a Hebrew word that literally means “the small one.” Most Bible scholars look at that and say Jesse was referring to David’s age. Consequently, they translate it as “the youngest.” And to be fair, David was certainly no runt—as least, not as we think of a runt. Still, it posits an interesting perspective.

Kingly lines don’t generally come from the youngest child of eight males. More often than not, the eldest will become king. That’s what Samuel assumed, but you know what happens when we assume.

I actually like to think of David as the runt. It gives me great hope. If God can take the least and turn him into the greatest, there’s still hope for me. For you too, I suspect.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]