I just finished reading A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. The subtitle of his book is “a study in brokenness.”
The ‘three kings’ in the ‘tale’ are Saul, David, and Absalom.
So, with any degree of Old Testament history literacy, you can quickly fast-forward through this narrative to visualize how ‘brokenness’ is inflicted and acted out.
Edwards wrote this little novella in response to the numerous correspondences he has received from people who had been hurt ‘in church’ – and often at the hands and words of those in authority and leadership over them.
He writes [among other comments] “…I noted some years ago a growing number of letters from Christians devastated by the authoritarian movement that had become so popular with many evangelical groups … The wreckage appears to be universal, and recovery from it is almost nil … This book reflects my concern for this multitude of confused, brokenhearted, and often bitter Christians who now find their spiritual lives in shambles and who are groping about for even the slightest word of hope and comfort…”
So, with that backdrop in your imagination, allow me to copy here just a few of my favorite takeaways from this short read…
Page 8 – Describing the scene where Samuel had come to Jesse’s house, and after David had been summoned in from keeping the sheep to stand before the prophet:
“Kneel,” said the bearded one with the long, gray hair. Almost regally, for one who had never been in that particular position, David knelt and then felt oil pouring down on his head. Somewhere, in one of the closets of his mind labeled ‘childhood information,’ he found a thought: This is what men do to designate royalty! Samuel is making me a … what?
The Hebrew words were unmistakable. Even children knew them: “Behold the LORD’s anointed!”
Quite a day for that young man, wouldn’t you say? Then do you find it strange that 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.
Page 12 – When Saul’s jealousy turned him against David and he became his bitter, deadly enemy – even while David was humbly and faithfully serving the king’s bidding, David, as an innocent young man was thrown into consternation:
David was caught in a very uncomfortable position; however, he seemed to grasp a deep understanding of the unfolding drama in which he had been caught. He seemed to understand something that few of even the wisest men of his day understood. Something that in our day, when men are wiser still, even fewer understand.
And what was that?
God did not have – but wanted very much to have – men and women who would live in pain.
God wanted a broken vessel.
In God’s sacred school of submission and brokenness, why are there so few students? Because all students in this school suffer much pain. And as you might guess, it is often the unbroken ruler (whom God sovereignly picks) who metes out the pain. David was once a student in this school, and Saul was God’s chosen way to crush David.
Unlike anyone else in spear-throwing history, David did not know what to do when a spear was thrown at him. He did not throw Saul’s spears back at him. Nor did he make any spears of his own and throw them. Something was different about David. All he did was dodge the spears.
What can a man, especially a young man, do when the king decides to use him for target practice? What if the young man decided not to return the compliment?
> First of all, he must pretend he cannot see the spears. Even when they are coming straight at him.
>Second, he must learn to duck very quickly.
>Last, he must pretend nothing happened.
You can easily tell when someone has been hit by a spear. He turns a deep shade of bitter. David never got hit. Gradually, he learned a very well-kept secret. He discovered three things that prevented him from ever being hit:
>One, never learn anything about the fashionable, easily mastered art of spear throwing.
>Two, stay out of the company of all spear throwers.
>And three, keep your mouth tightly closed.
In this way, spears will never touch you, even when they pierce your heart.
Page 32 – describing David’s days of running for his very life as a fugitive from the murderous Saul, his king, whom he had respected for his anointing and served…
These were David’s darkest hours. We know them as his pre-king days, but he didn’t. He may have assumed this was his lot forever.
Suffering was giving birth. Humility was being born.
By earthly measures he was a shattered man; by Heaven’s measure, a broken one.
And finally, just one more … drawing a stark contrast between the proud and powerful Saul and the broken David… – page 42:
If you are young and have never seen such things, you may be certain that sometime in the next forty years you will see. Highly gifted and very powerful men and women … reputed to be leaders in the kingdom of God, do some very dark and ugly deeds.
What does this world need: gifted men and woman, outwardly empowered? Or individuals who are broken, inwardly transformed?
Keep in mind that some who have been given the very power of God have raised armies, defeated the enemy, brought forth mighty works of God, preached and prophesied with unparalleled power and eloquence …
And thrown spears,
And hated other people,
And attacked others,
And plotted to kill,
And prophesied naked,
And even consulted witches.
If it be any consolation, I have never heard of this book.