FATHER’S SONG (7): Before American Idol: Saul (1 Samuel)

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One divine melody permeates the grand narrative of redemptive history.  In this series, Jeremy is guiding us through the biblical narrative–from Genesis to Revelation–with “ears to hear” the penetrating God-beat keeping everything in sync.

The Patriarchal and theocratic years of the Old Testament (Genesis-Judges) have provided the first several musical tracks of the Father’s Song. So far we have caught a glimpse of the eternal, harmonious dance of the Trinity before the creation of the world, and witnessed the Father singing the world and humanity into existence. We saw our first human ancestors stray from the Creator’s intended groove, starting their own amateur, out-of-tune band. Cosmic dissonance was the result (Fall). God’s solution was to start over by forming a small band of people beginning with Abraham and his descendants who would live once again in the divine rhythms of the Father’s Song.

Exodus through Judges has been one long, 40-year long, ear-piercing band rehearsal as God’s people struggle to get in sync with each other and God. The book of Judges ends on a rather sour note reminiscent of a band on the verge of break-up. Perhaps, they wonder, if we found the right lead man, we could turn this thing around and make it on the charts! Here’s my paraphrase of Judges 21:25: “In those days Israel’s band had no lead man; all the musicians played their own tune.”

At last, we now enter the era of the kings and the monarchy of Israel in our exploration of The Father’s Song — a sweeter sounding, broad sketch of the Bible.

Long before there was American Idol, there were wandering, religious charismatics with significant tribal influence called “judges”. Gideon, Samson, Deborah, Barak and others came first. Then the prophet-judge Samuel begins the transition from the period of the judges to the monarchy of Israel. Despite having received the written score of the Father’s Song at Sinai, the band of Israel was unable to learn to live and perform the song on their own. They decided, against God’s will, that they need a talented, charming, crowd-swaying lead man to get the band back on track. They cry out their aging “producer” or “agent” Samuel: “Now appoint for us a king to lead us like all the nations” (1 Sam. 8:5-6).

Both Samuel and God are grieved that they have rejected having God as their sole king and desire to be like the other nations by having a human king. Remember: Israel’s sole purpose is to be unlike the other nations — a holy, set-apart people.  They were to be God’s instruments of bringing the Father’s Song to a world dancing to their own self-destructive tunes.  Yet, God relents and honors their request. 1 Samuel then begins like the auditions for American Idol, and, for a crass and borderline blasphemous comparison, the prophet Samuel plays the role of Simon Cowell.

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Sanjaya Malakar, American Idol contestant

The first winner of Ancient Near Eastern Idol struts into the spotlight with remarkable stage presence and strikingly handsome appearance. Saul was tall, dark and handsome: “There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; he stood head and shoulders above everyone else” (1 Sam. 9:2). This is no Sanjaya Malakar!  Saul is anointed Israel’s first king and thus we begin the period of the kings of Israel.

Where does this significant development lead the still unfolding Father’s Song? I would say the beautiful, angelic harmonies of the pre-creation dance of the Trinity have long faded away by now. The dark, dissonance of Genesis 3 is still providing the bass line driving the whole song. Momentary flights and flourishes of pleasant chords surface at times during the Patriarchal period — the faith of Abraham, the righteousness of Noah, the leadership of Moses, the triumphant march of redemption at the Exodus, Merriam’s song of deliverance afterward and more.

But these are few and far between if we’re reading the whole story and listening to the whole song. There is a much deeper problem at work. Sin has invaded the human heart and prevents any hope of getting back in tune with God and one another. We can vote for our favorite musician, put them on a stage and hope that they can help lead us back into the Father’s Song; but they, too, are no match for sin’s distorting noise.

Saul will not bring Israel into harmony with The Father’s Song. His career fizzles out before his time, like so many modern day rock legends. And what of his successor David; perhaps the most famous musical prodigy and lyricist of all time?  Stay tuned.

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