Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Old Testament

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Fans of literature will talk about a "character arc," which refers to the viewpoint of a certain character throughout a story, and how it changes. Complex and well-written characters, therefore, have a character arc that is deep or wide. Flat characters are, well, flat and uninteresting. The person of David may have one of the deepest character arcs in the entire Bible, and possibly all of literature. Which is why so many people find it easy to see themselves in this anointed one of God.

As a young bot, the son of Jesse brings his sling shot to battle, and defeats the giant, Goliath. But this is only the beginning. Saul, the king of Israel resents David and tries to kill the young hero. But then Saul's son, Jonathan, befriends David and further complicates things.

Later, when David is fleeing from Saul, he shows himself as a man who understands the mercy of God, as he spares the life of Saul not once, but twice. And then, when Saul dies, David mourns the loss of the man who had vowed to kill him. But this character arc is just beginning to swing.

David rises to new heights in Israel, both in popularity and in territory. And then David, this anointed one of God who is described as a man after God's own heart (1 Sam. 13:14), finds himself lusting after another man's wife. David's lust would go unchecked and would grow into outright fornication, adultery, and eventually would lead him to murder an innocent man.

But finally, the arc begins to swing home, as Nathan confronts King David. He leads David to confess his sin by telling this story:

There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man's lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him (2 Samuel 12:1b-4).

David, being a man who knew the mercy of the almighty, saw the rich man for what he was, and confessed in his anger, "As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die" (2 Sam. 12:5).

Nathan simply responded, "You are the man!" (2 Sam. 12:7).

We may begin to see ourselves in the life of David, as we too have received our own anointing through the waters of Holy Baptism. We too have been men and women after God's own heart, seeking His Word often, and yearning to learn and grow in faith. But we have been on the other side of David's character arc as well. We have let sin go unchecked and almost helplessly experienced that sin grow and spiral out of control, until we can't even remember the little "harmless" sin we committed to get us going in this direction.

But thankfully, our character arc includes the same mercy and grace that God showed to David. In our confession, as in David's, we are restored as Christ's Word of Absolution is spoken to us. Luther called the absolution a return to Baptism, so when we are forgiven for the sake of Christ, it is nothing less than a return to the anointing we received when we were washed in the blood of the lamb, joined the royal priesthood of God's army, and received Christ's robes of righteousness to wear as our own.

You and I and David are complex characters in God's story of salvation, experiencing both the depth of sin, and the height of the cross of Christ which pulls us out of the mire and gives us eternal life. While our character arcs are deep and wide, thankfully, in Christ they have a happy ending as God's chosen people. For the greater anointed one, Jesus Christ, gives us His character arc as our own, and in His story, there is life everlasting. Amen.


Anonymous said...

Eithr I'm showing my age and it is a new term or I wasn't there the day they used the term 'character arc' to describe the changing views of the characters...

Captain Aunt Susan said...

Ooops! That was me...

Greg said...

Believe it or not, Wikipedia even has a reference for the term--whatever that is worth.
To be fair, though, the term may be more familiar to movie buffs.