Does God do more than He is given credit for?
Contrast Saul with the next King of Israel, David. Here was a ruddy young shepherd, a sensitive musician and a mighty man of faith. How do we know this? Because he was the only Israelite who didn't quake in his boots with the prospect of man-to-giant combat with the nine foot armed warrior known as Goliath. Armed only with a slingshot he cried out, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give all of you into our hands."
King David was a man somewhat flawed but with a deep and practical faith in God. On the one hand he was an adulterer, a murderer and quite cruel in the manner of his retributions to those who crossed him, but on the other hand he was brave, a good military commander and administrator, a poet of genius (as the Psalms prove) and, above all, a man aware of his sins and willing to deal with them before God. He was to roundly defeat the Philistines, the Moabites, the Edomites and the Ammonites and captured a whole swathe of Canaanite cities, as well as Jerusalem, which was to become his capital.
Mighty man of faith? No question about it! In contrast with Saul, David enquired of the Lord before acting (except in matters of romance, sadly) and always acknowledged that his victories were always through the hand of God, rather than his own military prowess. It was said that God gave David victory wherever he went. He was rewarded by promises from God that his descendants will be very special indeed and that his throne shall be established forever. David may not have fully understood what this meant, but it showed immense favour and grace.
Jerusalem was captured around 1000 BC from the Jebusites, who were big-headed enough to taunt the Israelites, who stood outside the walls of the city, saying that even the blind and lame would be able to keep David out. While they posed along the heavily fortified walls, David's army were clambering through the water shaft, from where they entered the city and conquered it. Jews have had a continuous presence in this city ever since (though only just at the time of the destruction by the Romans, but more of that later).
Ah, Jerusalem! At last it appears in the pages of our story. No other city in history has attracted so much controversy. At the time of David, the Israelite nation had been divided into two main regions, Israel and Judah. Judah covered the south of the land, comprising not just the land allocated to the tribe of Judah, but also that given to Simeon and Benjamin. The region of Israel covered the central and northern parts, covering the land given to Ephraim, Dan, Manasseh, Issachar, Zebulon, Naphtali and Asher. And Jerusalem was right on the boundary between the two, accessible to both regions.
'There are ten portions of beauty in the world. Nine are in Jerusalem, one in the rest of the world. There are ten portions of suffering in the world. Nine in Jerusalem and one in the rest of the world.'
This is a quote from the Avot de Rabbi Natan, an ancient collection of rabbinic commentary and serves to highlight the importance of Jerusalem in World history and it all really started with King David who made the significant decision to make Jerusalem his capital city.
The matter of Jerusalem has been a key focus of the battles between Mr. Roots and Mr. Shoots. Mr. Roots would point out that Jerusalem is mentioned 669 times in the Old Testament, not just in a historical sense (describing key points in its history), but in a prophetic sense. Zechariah 12:2-3 says: 'I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves'.
Yet Mr. Shoots would seek to poo-poo any suggestion that Jerusalem has any current significance for the Jewish people, even to go as far as suggest that whenever we see Jerusalem mentioned, it is Jesus that is meant.
Needless to say, Jerusalem has been one of the key points of conflict between Judaism, Christianity and Islam and will be discussed further a little later.
(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Outcast Nation)