Have You Ever Abandoned Your Vocation--or Been Tempted To?
February 27, 2011
Updated February 27, 2014
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Last month I wrote about Judah. That creepy member of Jesus’ family from Genesis 38 nevertheless revealed Jesus—which should give everybody hope. Today we’ll look at David—“a man after God’s own heart.” First a shepherd-king, David seems like a worthy sort to be part of Jesus’ family. But brother, did he have skeletons in his closet.
As Great Big Sea sings in one sad song, “Time makes the strongest tree to bend. Kings and queens have no defense. Time brings all things to an end.” It could be the end for David in 2 Samuel 11 and 12: David QUITS being king.
We read, “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war . . . David remained in Jerusalem.”
David doesn’t belong in Jerusalem in his palace that stands higher than everything else around. He belongs with his troops. The humble shepherd king is now suddenly the slacker who entrusts his General Joab to run his war. He has abandoned his calling.
What’s YOUR calling or vocation? Have you ever been tempted to abandon it?
Seventeen years ago I had a breakdown and a three-month medical leave. I worked part-time in a friend’s metal fabricating shop. I found out could make a living without all the church hassle. I was tempted to quit pastoring entirely, especially since I was feeling pretty good NOT pastoring.
David is feeling pretty good not being king. One day he takes a long, long afternoon nap maybe after having a big lunch and a few beers with some buddies. He finally gets up around twilight and looks around. Things often look better in twilight than in the full glare of the sun; you can hide things in the near-dark. David sees Bathsheba, who doesn’t know the king’s on his roof. Her husband is out fighting for David. She figures David’s with her husband, like God called him to be
But David’s eyes and heart wander. He’s not a king anymore; he’s just a dirty old man and a peeping tom with lots of power. He gets Bathsheba pregnant. David tries to trick her husband Uriah into sleeping with his wife to mask David and Bathsheba’s adultery-driven pregnancy. Yet Uriah remains loyal. David makes sure he dies in battle.
David breaks so many of the Ten Commandments in a month that they look like Swiss cheese. He covets, lies, steals and sleeps with his friend’s wife and kills his friend. All because he abandons his vocation. What’s David doing in Jesus’ family anyway?
Then along comes Nathan, the prophet. Nathan means “gift”—a hard gift from God, because through Nathan’s words God calls David back. Nathan tells a simple story, appealing to David’s calling as a real and just king. “There were two men, one rich and poor.” We know the story. Rich man steals poor man’s lamb. David is outraged: “Make him pay fourfold–and have him killed.”
Right answer. Wrong man.
Nathan to David: “YOU are the man.”
David gets it: “I have sinned against the Lord.”
This is the toughest discovery and admission David ever makes. The cause of all his trouble was that he had quit his vocation to which God had called him.
What’s YOUR vocation?
Everybody needs a “Nathan” who will speak God’s Word to you. Seventeen years ago God gave me a Nathan, a pastor colleague. He was glad that I had found I could make a living with my hands. But in twice-weekly conversations for two months he asked me in dozens of ways, “To what is God calling you?”
God was calling me like he called David to confess: “I have sinned.” I had come very close to committing vocational suicide, even though I might have been able to live more easily. But I KNEW I was a pastor, preacher, teacher and counsellor, husband and father. It took only three months to figure that out again with help from the Word of God that came from my Nathan.
Who is your “Nathan” your gift from God in human flesh and blood?
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At times the answer would be yes. But then what do you do with your life, your training, the investment and sacrifices you and your family have made. Curse the ministry and die, Job's wife whispers to us. But somehow we slog on; but some of us don't. It seems that an increasing number of us don't. And I wonder how many of us are truly content in our ministries. William Willimon has a great lecture on the subject, the onlygood reason to be a pastor, on iTunes, scroll down to Number 73 - The Only Good reason to be a pastor.
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