Anchoring the Ship: Loyalty 1 Samuel 24

Crisis reveals how we are anchored; disclosing our learned tendencies.  Let us not fool ourselves thinking some people are born with the propensity to firmly anchor their lives to higher and holier desires because they were lucky recipients of good genes.   The anchors of our life are learned, living life, sometimes in the halls of a cave.  Then, when a crisis presents itself, our anchor holds to the rock because we have spent our life making sure that anchor is ready to hold.  We either allow experiences to reinforce our drifting ways, or we learn from our experiences and take measures to more firmly anchor our lives, so we may face future crisis with greater buoyancy.

Three thousand years ago, Saul pursued David in the Judean wilderness.  Saul realizes David is God’s man and he couldn’t deal with losing his people’s hearts, so he chases him, hoping to extinguish a political threat.  David and six hundred men come to En Gedi, an oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea.  The barren limestone mountains rise up from the shore, they are laced with steep ravines and honeycombed with caverns; made to order for a man on the run.  David and his men find a cave large enough for 600; and they hide in the angles and passageways.

David has been nothing but loyal to Saul.  He put his life on the line facing Goliath, he played the harp when Saul got a migraine, and led Saul’s troops into battle knowing Saul was scheming his death.  The gratitude he receives for loyalty is to be a fugitive from the man he had faithfully served.

Back on the mountain, Saul hears nature call, he steps in the cave.  The Hebrew says, “to cover his feet”.  Modern translations are clumsier, but we get the point, the king is us in this moment.  The chronicler depicts Saul as vulnerable as he seeks to rid of David in many un-king-like ways.  Saul doesn’t know the man he seeks is hidden by the rocks and darkness.

David is presented with an opportunity to hasten Samuel’s prophetic choice that would make him king.  His men encourage him, covering their desire for revenge with a thick coat of religious varnish.  David moves toward Saul; carrying a stiletto and his own destiny in his hand.

David wants to end this pursuit.  But, he makes his point by cutting off a piece of Saul’s clothing.   At once, David has serious pangs of conscience.  He tells to his men he was wrong to show the king disrespect, it wasn’t his place to exercise justice.  Cutting off a corner of the royal robe was an act of physical and spiritual vandalism; an attack on Saul’s right to be king.

David is struggling to balance loyalty to Saul with his sense of justice.  We will spend these weeks exploring how to hook anchors firmly onto the Rock that holds; unpacking each anchor.  May we remember how each anchor interacts with other anchors!  The challenge of an anchored life is seen as David has to assess how being anchored to loyalty to his king is balanced with the anchor of justice.  An anchored life requires us to anchor firmly to many virtues; not promoting one virtue at the expense of another virtue.

These recent weeks we have seen at Penn State how blind loyalty to a program and person caused good people to compromise truth-telling.  Their athletic program fostered the building of young adults at the expense of vulnerable children; causing a cover up, so they could continue to build budgets.  We can love something while disregarding the love of somebody.

This story is David learning how to securely anchor his life.  David would have done his people a favor in ending Saul’s life.  No one would have blamed him if he had taken matters into his own hands.  Something caused David to respect his position and remain loyal despite the personal injustice he experienced.  David holds tight to loyalty under the pressure saying, “I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the Lord’s anointed.”

David works his way through this situation because he was anchored to another virtue too-patience.  David knew Saul was wrong, and he plainly says so.  Still, he refuses to rush the timeline; knowing his perspective is clouded.  Patience requires David to trust God would take care of the injustices when it was time; causing David to let go of outcome, and believing he will ascend in God’s time.  God didn’t need David’s help.

To un-anchor from patience to achieve a certain end, like justice can tempt us to cut corners.  The breeding ground for dumb decisions is a lack of patience.  Our too quick answers can ignore other basic anchors.  God’s purposes are more easily realized when we anchor our lives to all required virtues needed for that moment.  In a case like this one, we remain loyal despite injustice because we refuse to impatiently descend to places we would not otherwise go.  Patience requires us to not go to a place by our own will, but remain in place until we know God’s will.

We cannot reduce loyalty to a simple formula; like either you are loyal or you’re not loyal.  Loyalty lives in relationship with being grateful for what has been done and what we have, and the patience to trust, and proper sense of justice.  We can learn to more firmly anchor ourselves onto the rock that holds by doing the right thing in all regards in our own caves.

A cave where our anchor of loyalty is often tested against other virtues is when a person disappoints us: in our families or among friends.  We wish no one would let us down or turn against us, but it happens.  This can chain us to the past and poison our actions; destroying from the inside out.  While we have no control over what other people do, we do have complete control over how we respond.  There are some rules of thumb to keep in mind when anchors, like loyalty, patience and justice being tested.

A) Speak carefully in the cave-We can say things we regret when our anchors are tested in the winds of stress.  It’s not easy to refrain from bitter words, and to speak of person’s best side; giving them the benefit of the doubt, especially when it cost us our own dignity.  We are called to that kind of life, though there’s no guarantee it will work.  Rarely, will we regret the things we don’t say.  Prov. 10:19, “…he who holds his tongue is wise.”

B) Remain humble in the cave-Our example of remaining humble while holding to all the anchors is Jesus, who we are called to be like.  He was reviled and reviled not, cursed and cursed not, and abused and refused to repay in kind.  When he hung between two thieves, crucified for crimes he did not commit, he prayed for those who killed him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  He was a perfect example of anchoring himself completely to the Rock of Ages while severely tested.

Josh Hamilton, the Ranger’s superstar, has spent his early years trying to firmly anchor his life.  He and the Ranger organization are about to face a test.  The club traded for Josh, knowing his history of addiction.  They have stood by him during relapses and incidents we cannot speak.  The team has demonstrated loyalty to their star player.  Josh’s contract is up and virtue on both sides is about to be revealed.  Will the Rangers stand by him, though he is in a terrible slump at the moment?  Or, will Josh jump because another team offers to pay him a marginal amount more money than a team that has been incredibly loyal?  The anchors of this relationship are being tested and we will see what hold in a few months.

The anchors of life, like loyalty will face times of high winds and uncertain seas.  In these times, we are to not let go of the anchor that holds our lives as we respond to this storm in life.  If we un-anchor ourselves from any needed virtue because it expeditious or easy we could set ourselves unnecessarily adrift.  If we hold tightly to all the tried and true anchors this situation requires by trusting God, who knows best our lives. We will be anchored to the Rock that will keep us afloat in any circumstance of life.

Published in: on July 29, 2012 at 8:12 am  Leave a Comment  

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