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We have been looking at the stories of early Israel, and specifically David, this summer. We have met the young shepherd boy David, who slew the giant Philistine, Goliath, and who was chosen by God to be Israel's second king after the people demanded a king. We have seen how David grieved for Saul and Jonathon, and led the nation in grieving their first king. We have heard how David brought home the Ark of the Covenant and danced in celebration. David has led the nation in battle and as a leader of the people.
Written on styrofoam insulation with fat Sharpie markers, our blessings, our prayers covered the walls of the Dodson home. It was our last day on the Appalachia Service Project and in a few minutes, Rita and Mike would call us over to the picnic tables for the hootenany, a huge feast of cornbread and pickled cucumbers, fried alligator and steak, watermelon and warm apple dumplings.
Last spring, upon the recommendation of a friend, I picked up a book called, "All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior, a contributing editor at New York Magazine.1 The book in itself is helpful enough, vignettes about the struggles of parenting paired with some interesting sociological analysis. But the best part of the book is 10 pages in her final chapter on the distinction she makes in her title, between fun, or happiness, and JOY. "We live in an age when we're told," Senior writes, "that striving for happiness is paramount. Our right to pursue it is enshrined in our nation's founding document; it's the subject of innumerable self-help books and television shows. Happiness is the focus of a burgeoning field of academia, called positive psychology, which studies what makes the good life and all-around flourishing possible. Happiness, we are told, is achievable. When we're surrounded by so much material prosperity, as we are today [more broadly], it is our prerogative - our due, even our destiny to attain it."2
Immediately following the death of Saul, David becomes king of Judah, the southern part of Israel. In our pericope this morning, the northern tribes of Israel came to David in hopes that he would become their king, too, therefore unifying the whole kingdom of Israel, previously divided by Saul's not-so-suave reign.
As we continue our study of I & II Samuel this summer, we have reached an important point in our story. The first king of Israel, the one chosen by Samuel with God's guidance, has died, as well as his son, the obvious heir to the throne. Samuel, led again by God, privately picked David to succeed Saul, though he had no legal right to the throne. And though King Saul had at first accepted David, he grew increasingly afraid and jealous of him, and even tried to kill him. David and Saul's son, Jonathon, were best friends, and Saul and Jonathon would often argue about David. Even with his issues, Saul had led Israel to become more united and prominent. But when the Philistines attacked, Israel was not able to keep them at bay. Saul and Jonathon died trying to fend them off.