In several movies and television shows that I’ve seen over the years, typically comedies, there is a well worn gag where a person who comes from a lower socio-economic tier finds themself at a gathering or party at a wealthy person’s home. Inevitably, there is a buffet. And predictably, the person will begin to take food from the tables and put it in his/her pockets, purse, under a hat, etc…
The reason this is funny is because it represents the collision of two worlds, and the response of the “withouts” is to try and capture and take home some of the luxuries that the “withs” experience every day. There is a “this might be my only chance” mentality.
The rich don’t hide garlic rolls in their jackets because they know that they will be back at a table/buffet/spread just like that one tomorrow. The impoverished have no idea when they will get another chance like this, and so they take all they can.
Now hold on to that image.
In 2 Samuel 3, there is a troubling scene involving the rise of David, just after King Saul’s death. David is in negotiations with the former king’s general, Abner, and David has leverage, he already has the support of many in Israel, and the reader truly gets a sense that it is just a matter of time before David is going to be on the throne. But as a part of these negotiations David demands that a former wife of his, King Saul’s daughter, Michal, be taken from her current husband and returned to David. And the Bible says that one of Abner’s goons, “took her from her husband Paltiel…but her husband went with her, weeping after her all the way…” (2 Sam. 3.15-16).
The unnecessary swagger that David displayed in taking Michal away from her new husband, Paltiel, was evidence of just how insecure David’s heart truly was. Eugene Peterson says of David, “in the matter of Paltiel he is at his worst – a man who sacrifices his humanity at the altar of power” (Peterson, “The Jesus Way” p. 87). And what is shocking here is how remarkably unnecessary this entire scene was – and perhaps even more unsettling is what this reveals about David’s inner life.
David, in 2 Samuel 3, finally has the entire world at his feet. He has stepped into the fullness of what the prophet had told him he would one day do. And yet, at this moment, with everything going right, David tragically treats the situation like a vagrant at a rich man’s buffet.
He has the kingdom, his former rival’s best general and soldiers, the allegiance of much of the nation (with the rest soon to follow), the fear of his one enemy, and the blossoming evidence of the promises of God coming true in front of his eyes.
David has everything, and yet he still wants more.
Instead of rejoicing over all that he’s been given, he says, “give me the one thing I don’t have…give me another man’s wife.” Make any argument you like about how Michal was David’s first, and they will all ring hollow because David did not take Michal because of his love for her. David took Michal because he still struggled to believe that he actually belonged in the place where God called him.
When you are confident that God has called, equipped and placed you, you don’t feel the need to flex your power. When you have assurance that God is the one both directing you, and enabling you to succeed in the places He is taking you, you don’t have to put people under your heel to make sure everyone knows how over-qualified you are for the job.
There are two kinds of people: those who eat only what fills them because they know they’ll be back at a buffet like this tomorrow, and those who gorge themselves and desperately stuff extra in their pockets because they struggle to imagine themselves ever belonging in that kind of place.
David struggled with this issue of identity. His God-given identity. Often times we do as well.
One of the most difficult things we do in the Christian life is to simply believe what God has said about us. To believe we are truly free. To believe we are truly forgiven. To believe we are truly loved. To believe we are truly adopted. To believe we are truly accepted.
These are foreign concepts to us, and so they don’t sink into our heart very easily. Like the young prodigal we are more than willing to come back home, but only as a servant who will earn our room and board.
But God, because of what Jesus did for us, says, “empty your pockets, stop hoarding your blessings, My mercies are new every morning, My blessings never end, My everlasting love never fails.” God offers us a seat at His table not just once, but every day. He isn’t inviting the poor to have a good meal every now and then, He’s adopting the orphan and giving us free run, every day, in every cabinet and cupboard in Heaven’s kitchen.