Storyteller, pastor and evangelist Gene Edwards’ A Tale of Three Kings: A Study in Brokenness is a little book. But anyone dismissing a book of its wisdom for its size would miss its anointed, secreted gospel message.
94 pages in all, not including the Discussion Guide.
I must say, I read it just in time. But really, it could be read by any of us, anytime, and we’d benefit. It’s not just a book for pastors, but it should be required reading for all pastors.
My method is to go through the book and to locate its highlights and provide some commentary:
PART ONE – Saul and David
Two kings are profiled: the Lord’s anointed, Saul, who the Lord rejects, and the Lord’s newly anointed, David, who must suffer a mad king (Saul) until the Lord is ready to install David to the throne.
David is anointed with oil by Samuel (chapter 2), and the king-elect gradually grows in stature, but, and this is important, having been anointed, “this remarkable event led the young man not to the throne but to a decade of hellish agony and suffering… On that day, David was enrolled, not into the lineage of royalty, but into the school of brokenness.” (p. 8)
David was set to learn many indispensable lessons about spear throwing from an insane king.
David served the mad king, and the better he did, the more jealous the king grew. David knew he was now the Lord’s anointed, so why, when Saul threw spears, didn’t David throw them back?
David began to understand, that, in not throwing the spears back, God got what He wanted… “God did not have — but wanted very much to have — men and women who would live in pain… God wanted a broken vessel.” (p. 12)
So who is the Lord’s anointed again? Saul or David? One is but doesn’t act so, and one isn’t yet still has charge. Who is the true king? If he’s the type that throws spears, he may well be king… and quite mad!
“God has a university. It’s a small school.
Few enrol; even fewer graduate.
Very, very few indeed.” (p. 15)
Few enrol; even fewer graduate.
Very, very few indeed.” (p. 15)
“… all students in this school must suffer much pain. And as you might guess, it is often the unbroken ruler (Saul, in David’s case) (who God sovereignly picks) who metes out the pain.” (p. 15)
“As the king grew in madness, David grew in understanding,” as if sanctified by what he suffered. David chose to submit under the oblivion of lunacy, and thereby, in his brokenness, spiralled down into a deeper hell.
So David was perplexed… what am I to do when these spears whistle past my head? Of course, any man or woman’s logic is to grab that thrown spear and throw it right back where it came from… an eye for an eye. After all, David, you’re a warrior! Are you chicken? Goaded by men and by conscience, there did seem something amiss in this logic — to avenge the attack is to avenge one’s kingship.
Yet, David would not throw those spears back. He was not a king after the order of Saul. David had learned something absurdly counterintuitive; it is always better to pretend the spears didn’t even exist… and if they did hit, it doesn’t matter, even if they pierce your heart.
Now to change tack: we have to ask ourselves, continually and constantly, if we’re the Lord’s anointed… and, if so, are we after the order of King Saul. If we are, we’re destined to miss the mark. Asking this question is perplexing, for only God knows the answer. But it is still vital to ask the question! “Am I a king who fights for my own justice?” “Am I a spear thrower?”
Something that pierces worse that Saul’s spear is the searching eye of the Lord, from which nothing is hidden: Saul, he is in you and I! And there’s nothing we can do about it unless we’re inculcated in the same curriculum as David was.
In that broken place, with spear wounds all over, we must leave the battlefield with not a single friend. We must leave alone. We leave that kingdom without defence… not one spear thrown… wounded… to enter the cave… a very inhospitable place… where we’re inclined to enter a season of bitter pity… pities given not to another man, but to God, in psalms of lament.
In David’s darkest hours, as if labour pains of suffering birthed in him humility only possible from brokenness, through being shattered, again and again, he led a band of hoodlums to sobriety. “David did not lead them,” but they were led by him, alright! They were amazed, as are we, that true kingship comes when nothing is forced; when the leader submits to violence and allows what God will sovereignly allow.
David, the Lord’s anointed, has no defence. He insists, there will be no defence! Sounds crazy. He trusts God.
Yes, God gives the unruly and the unworthy his power.
“He sometimes gives unworthy vessels a greater portion of power so that others will eventually see the true state of internal nakedness in that individual.” (p. 41)
In the fact of wicked leadership all are able to see that God is poorly represented.
Remember Saul. He is in each of us! We think we’re Davids. But, in fact, unless we act as David did, and the vast majority don’t, we are kings after the order of Saul.
Here is the twist: David never minded if he was about to be dethroned. David had authority, but in that very fact, that fact didn’t ever occur to him. He who had all power acted as if he had none.
That’s what the school of brokenness taught David: if you don’t attack from a position of weakness, when you have strength, power is nothing to misuse.
Remember, Saul — he’s in me and you. We’re kings after his order if we flunk God’s school of brokenness.
PART TWO – David and Absalom
Two kings are profiled: the king in residence, David, who is about to be overthrown, and Absalom, the king-elect in the fashion of his own making.
The reverse of the situation of part one takes place. Absalom is usurping the kingship. Will David treat Absalom like Saul treated David? And, if so, will Absalom respond in the same way as David did to Saul’s treatment?
In a man who seemed noble and pure, Absalom, a “rebellion was ignited.” (p. 60)
Absalom had the numbers, the ascendency, the favour of the people. Still every kingdom has its portion of discord. And if Absalom is to become a tyrant, his new kingdom will not last. David’s ponderings with Sage are deep and spiritual. History will tell. It always has.
Joab was sought and he and David pondered the imminent rebellion.
Was David to mount a defence? He only had his experience of youth to draw on. “What course [of action] was that?” asked Joab. “To do absolutely nothing,” replied the king. (p. 68)
Alone. When you’re about to be overthrown, you’re alone.
David ponders, this time with Abishai: “Shall I be a Saul to Absalom?” to which was the reply: “He has been no young David to you.” (p. 70)
Absalom has minor grievances, whereas David had major grievances with Saul. David had never been unfair to Absalom. Yet David was losing a kingdom. So many conundrums.
David refused to learn the ways of Saul, a second time and temptation, through unlearning the ways he learned with Saul.
Absalom promised to make a splendid Saul. He was already a Saul, for he had no understanding of the wisdom from which David was made kith and kin.
“The motives of the heart will eventually be revealed. God will see to it.” (p. 86)
Then David reflected over Moses and Korah: “At the age of forty, Moses was had been an arrogant, self-willed man, not unlike Korah. What he might have done at forty, I cannot say. At eighty, he was a broken man. He was…
“The meekest man who ever lived… [whoever] carries the rod of God’s authority should be.” (p. 87)
Absalom claims the kingdom!
David said, “The throne is not mine. Not to have, not to take, not to protect, and not to keep.” (p. 94)
Then, “the true king turned and walked quietly out of the throne room, out of the palace, out of the city. He walked and he walked…
“Into the bosoms of all men whose hearts are pure.”
© 2016 Steve Wickham.