November 25, 2012
Second Samuel 23:1-17
Last summer we had a series of readings from I and II Samuel on the history of David. Today’s reading is a hymn of praise to God purportedly by David. This and another hymn (Chapter 22, which also appears as Psalm 18) have been inserted into the historical account of David at the point where his long series of wars are finally concluded. David sings about God’s guidance of him in ruling justly and God’s establishment of a covenant with him. It was firmly believed in later ages that God had made a covenant promising that the rulers of Israel would be of the House of David. Abner, the general, said it was so (II Samuel 3:9)) Psalm 89 says the same (89:3, 28-29). Yet oddly, nowhere can be found a covenant with David in which God explicitly promises the thrones of Israel to his descendants.
The Greek word translated as “revelation” also means “vision.” The book of Revelation is offered as a vision of a man named John (not certainly identified). It is largely an allegory of the persecutions of the Jews by Babylon and Rome and their rescue by God through the leadership of Jesus Christ. Revelation is the most complete of the numerous Apocalypses known, including the Books of Daniel, Isaiah 24-27, several pseudepigraphic works, especially the Book of Enoch, and various Persian writings. In all of these, the central action is a battle between the forces of evil led by Satan or some such figure that have taken charge of the world, and the forces of good sent by God and led by Christ or other divine being. In Revelation, Christ, upon winning the battle, takes to himself the faithful, the dead as well as the living. The book was written about 90 CE to encourage Christians to stand by their faith, not to worship the emperor as a god, as the Romans demanded, but to endure martyrdom rather than betray Christ. Our reading is taken from the introductory salutation to the readers. It comes to a climax with a vision of God the Father appearing in the clouds and declaring himself the Alpha and Omega (the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet), in effect, the God of everything.