Ziklag - a place for our time
The best times for me to have any extended reading or study moments is when I travel to teach, and this week I’ve been two hours north of Toronto, teaching 350 college students, who will, beginning Saturday, constitute the staff of a marvelous sports camp. As I’m writing the sun is setting through my cabin window, a cabin which looks out on a large lake. When it gets dark the loons will come out and serenade, and the stars will be infinitely visible tonight because it’s dark and clear.
I’m reading a book by Eugene Peterson while here, and one chapter is particularly apropos because of what’s going on in the church where I pastor. The chapter is about David’s life at Ziklag, and there are two main points to see in the chapter:
- David and his followers, though they are the people of God, aren’t squeaky clean. David’s little ‘church’ is described as ‘everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented. (I Samuel 22:2). There it is: the people who constitute the church!
- Ziklag becomes for David a place of compromise (you’ll need to read about it on your own) and I think Peterson does a marvelous job of critiquing the critics. He complains that the moralists call this David’s time of failure because he compromised with the world, and he criticizes the secularists who claims that this is David’s time of brilliance because he compromises with the world.
Peterson says (in my words) – stop condemning or commending – it is what it is, and you don't know the whole story. Look for Christ in the midst of it and in the midst of the people there and get on with it. In his own words, he writes: “Ziklag, for me, is the premier biblical location for realizing that when we get serious about the Christian life we eventually end up in a place and among people decidedly uncongenial to what we had expected. That place and people is often called a church. It’s hard to get over the disappointment that God, having made an exception in my case, doesn’t call only nice people to repentance.”
These are valuable insights, because it’s incredibly easy for people never to connect or to lose connection because of condemning or commending the actions of people in the church, which is a way of condemning or commending the church. Peterson suggests that we look for Christ, and says that if we really look – we’ll find him among the rag-tag bunch that constitutes the community of God’s chosen. He says it this way: “I see Christ – for Christ plays in ten-thousand places/ lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his/ to the Father, through the feature of men’s faces.”
And, of all the strange places – you’ll find Him in Ziklag, or Muskoka Woods, or Seattle – at Stone and 80th.