Monday this week (now last week) the office lectionary featured one of, in my mind, the most troubling passages in scripture:  I Samueal 15:1-3, 7-13.  In this passage, God rejects Samuel as king, because God had commanded him, after he defeated the Amalekites, to utterly destroy them:  man, woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.  But Saul didn’t do this after God granted him victory.  He utterly destroyed the people with the sword.  But he took the king alive, along with the best of the sheep and oxen and fatlings and lambs — and in fact, all that was good.  He only destroyed what was worthless.  Taken at face value, this portrays a bloodthirsty, vengeful god (Amalek opposed God’s people on their way to the promised land).  It portrays a god with no restraint, who does not value human life or the rest of creation.  And to reject Saul as king, because he will not follow this dispicable command (though he seems to have slaughtered all the people he could catch except the king) just sort of caps off the whole mess for me.

Who would ever want to worship or follow a god like that?

The contrast is in the gospel, where Jesus is dying on the cross.  That’s the God I recognize.  The problem is, I don’t think we’re looking at two different gods.  So how do I reconcile this?

In all honesty, with difficulty.  Is this Solomon justifying the reign of his father David?  I understand this strand of biblical history to have been written for his court.  Is this God working with God’s people in a way they understand?  Or God’s people working with their history in a way that makes sense to them?  I tend to believe it’s likely something along these lines.  But I don’t say this with any great assurance.

We’ve had our crusades in the Christian Church, as well as in our early heritage.  And they don’t ring true to God for me.  I know there are those who would disagree.  Frankly, they tend to scare me.  Jihad just doesn’t make a lot of God sense to me.