'Tales of the Unexpected'
David's Story and Peter's Story
The hymn 'Morning has broken' is a creation hymn well suited to - and often sung in - this season of Creation Time. It reflects the story of Creation as found in Genesis.
But it is also a hymn which calls us beyond reflection on Creation to rejoicing in its continuance 'Praise every morning God's re-creation of the new day'.
As Christians we are called us to pray for, work for and seek a new morning, a new dawn, the breaking of a new day, when all that is spoiled and soiled, polluted and plundered, demeaned and destroyed in all of creation is renewed and restored in God's time, by God's will and through God's Sprit. A new morning will yet dawn.
For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:19-21 NIV)
Yes, a new morning will dawn. This is God's promise and our hope. And as we look for this and long for this for Creation, we have already seen it in the lives of some of the great Bible heroes.
Think of Israel's greatest King, David. Plucked from the obscurity of being a shepherd boy in Bethlehem and called and anointed to be King of the people. How unexpected was that? Slaying the giant Goliath with a sling and stone. Again, unexpected.
He was truly great . . . but flawed!
One day, he glimpses Bathsheba bathing and is tempted. And - being King - he arranges things so that not only does he commit adultery with Bathsheba, but he also can arrange so that her husband, Uriah, who is an officer in his army, is killed on the battlefield.
An adulterer . . . a murderer! But then, he is the king, who is going to find out?
Except the prophet Nathan has the whole sad, sorry and sordid tale revealed to him by God and he confronts David;
The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him. David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity. Then Nathan said to David, You are the man! (2 Samuel 12:1-7 NIV)
'You are the man'!
What does David do? He repents. The depth of his sorrow and sincerity in repenting is revealed in the Psalm he wrote - Psalm 51.
He had failed dramatically . . .but had repented sincerely. And did this mean God ordained some lesser role for him? No! Grace abounds!
At the end of the reign of King David these words are recorded as his last words. He himself has experienced a new dawn, a new day, a new morning and he has himself been like a new morning as we will hear.
The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; his word was on my tongue. The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: When one rules over people in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth.'" (2 Samuel 23:1-4 NIV)
And then there is Peter, the disciple of Jesus; headstrong, eager, impetuous Peter!
How much he wanted to be right and loyal, and how badly he failed! He had promised Jesus that no matter what and no matter who else deserted him, he would stand firm! But . . .
Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priests courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in. You arent one of this mans disciples too, are you? she asked Peter. He replied, I am not. It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.
There in that courtyard by a charcoal fire, Peter denies Jesus, not once, not twice, but three times, just as Jesus had said he would . . . and the cock crowed.
Matthew's account tells us that at this point, Peter, realising what he had done, went out and wept bitterly. If you are familiar with Bach's great St Matthew Passion you will know the deeply moving and heart rending aria that reflects that moment of Peter's realisation and grief.
And yet . . .this was not the end! After Jesus' resurrection, by the Sea of Galilee, very early one morning a stranger appears on the shore. The disciples had been out fishing, and then they realise who it is . . .'It is the Lord!' and Peter is the first to jump into the water and head for shore . . . to find there - of all things - another charcoal fire! But this is not the Fire of Denial, but will be the Fire of Renewal . . .
When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
A new morning has broken for Peter on that shore as day was breaking.
Three times he had denied his Lord by a charcoal fire and now Jesus had set another charcoal fire and allowed Peter to cancel out each of these denials with three affirmations of his love. And each time Jesus gently re-commissions Peter; 'Feed my lambs', 'tend my sheep', 'feed my sheep'.
A new day, a new dawn, a new morning for Peter . . . and for us?
David's story and Peter's story are truly tales of the unexpected; stories of calling, failure and restoration.
These are accounts of the unexpected and undeserved grace of God . . . and not just for David and Peter. But for us.
We all fail, but to each of us God holds out the promise of the breaking of a new morning, made possible by his unexpected and undeserved grace.
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