1 & 2 Samuel

Hiking Oyster Dome, Part 2

Oyster Dome Hike Dave at sunset 4.45 pmIn Hiking Oyster Dome, Part 1, I told about my trip to Logos Bible Software in Washington state to tape two courses (1, 2, Samuel, and 1, 2 Kings). I concluded my week discussing David’s song in 2 Samuel 22 (which is the same as Psalm 18) where he praises his God for being his rock, his deliverer, and his savior. After a full week of taping, on Friday I wanted to head to the woods where I encountered God on my hike to Oyster Dome. After reaching Oyster Dome, I had 5 minutes to enjoy the spectacular view of forest, mountains, coastline, ocean, islands, clouds and sunset before heading back to my car, hoping to arrive before dark. (Review is now over.)

After going down about fifteen minutes, the path didn’t look familiar.  “I don’t remember walking across these logs.”  I had a moment of panic, thinking that I made a wrong turn.  I decided just to backtrack and find the right path.  After walking back about 10 minutes and not seeing an obvious “right path”, I began to wonder if I had made a mistake backing up.  I decided to just keep going the way I had originally gone.

But now the panic really began.  I could easily be 2 hours away from my car.  I wasn’t sure where I was.  Darkness was coming quickly.  I hadn’t seen anyone for 30 minutes.  Did I mention that my cell phone was dead?

The prospect of spending the night in the mountains loomed on the horizon.  I never made it past Cub Scouts, so I wasn’t good at the whole eating nuts and berries, and starting a fire from scratch thing.  No working phone, no flashlight.  I did have a map…and a God who listens to my prayers.

I recalled 2 Samuel 22 that I had taught on that morning, particularly verse 7.

In my distress I called upon the LORD

It’s been awhile since one of my prayers has felt that urgent.  “God, get me back to my car safely.”

I hiked another 10 minutes and found a point on my map that I did recognize.  I had made a wrong turn at the base of Oyster Dome.  Now, I had a choice, 1) Go back the way I had just came, or 2) Descend using my map on an alternate route called “Max’s Shortcut.”  I decided to go with Max (and hoped that that was not where the wild things were) and option 2 since I had already tried backtracking and it didn’t work out.  I had a good trail map.

As I headed down on “Max’s Shortcut,” I thought I should start jogging if it was flat or a slight decline to save time.  It was a bit awkward with my backpack.  I felt like Gimli (not like Aragorn or Legolas).  The sweat started to pore down my face.  My green shirt smelled like a high school boys locker room.

I was making good time and this path was clearly marked. (“Thank you, Jesus.”)  I met no wild things.  I knew where I was and could follow along on my map.  Everything was great until Max’s Shortcut ran into the Larry Reed Trail.  I saw a sign from the distance and was encouraged since I had seen no humans for about an hour.  I ran up to the sign, read it and was devastated.  “Trail Closed Due to Logging Danger.”

In my distress I called upon the LORD

The sign told me to go back the way I had come, which would now take over 2 hours.  It informed me that if I were caught trespassing on this trail I could be fined.  I thought, “I’d be happy to be caught and fined.  That’s better than spending the night in a forest.  But I don’t want to be crushed by a log.”

I decided to take my chances with falling logs with Larry Reed.

At first everything was great.  (“Thank you, Jesus.”)  The trail was clearly marked and relatively flat.  I knew where I was on my map and because I kept jogging I was making great time, until I ran into a clearing where the loggers had done their business.  The path disappeared as an enormous swath of the forest had been harvested.  All that was left was a big, brown gap, with no sign of the path.  I couldn’t make it back without a path.

In my distress I called upon the LORD

 I looked down at my map and noticed that the path through this section was relatively straight, so I tried to guess where the path should reappear on the other side of the clearing to give myself a heading and then starting walking straight.  After climbing through the dirt, and rocks in the clearing, I came to the other side and found my beloved Larry Reed Trail.  (“Thank you Jesus.”)

Ten more minutes of hiking/jogging took me to the Samish Overlook.  The view was amazing, not as high as Oyster Dome, but you were closer to the ocean and had a much wider panorama.  There were people there (Civilization!) who I considered hugging, but then thought better of the idea and just said “hi”.  (Did they think I was a wild thing?)

After a brief stop to take in the view, I was back to my Gimli-esque jogging and reconnected to the Oyster Dome Trail and went down the steep switch-backs knowing that I wouldn’t spend the evening in the wilderness, I wouldn’t be crushed by falling timber, and I wouldn’t be forced to chew on tree bark for sustenance.

About 4:45, I met a serious photographer taking shots of a gorgeous sunset who I convinced to take a picture of me with my iPad.  He’d never used a iPad. (“Just press that circle.”  “I don’t think it took.”  “It probably did.” “I’ll make sure.”  He took 10 pictures.  I included 1—image #3. “It will just be a silhouette.” “That’s OK, people don’t want to see my face anyway.”)

I finally made it down to my car as it was getting dark a few minutes after 5:00, exhausted, sweaty, sore, stinky, but most significantly grateful to the God that not only delivered David the king, also delivered David the hiker.  In the future, whenever I wear my green Samuel shirt I will be reminded of my hike to Oyster Dome and this is what I’ll say:

In my distress I called upon the LORD;
to my God I called.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry came to his ears…
For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations,
and sing praises to your name (2 Sam. 22:7, 50).

Hiking Oyster Dome

Dave and Josh Burdick Logos Sign 1.17.2014 2

Recently, I was in Bellingham, Washington taping two courses for Logos Bible Software. For the sake of video consistency while taping each course, I needed to wear the same shirt. Monday through Wednesday morning I wore my red shirt for 1, 2 Kings. Then Wednedsay afternoon through Friday I wore my green shirt for 1, 2 Samuel (as modeled in front of Logos wall with Josh Burdick). My green shirt particularly was getting a bit ripe as the week progressed. By the end of Friday, the shirt would become more pungent.

I concluded my final lecture on Friday morning in Samuel looking at 2 Samuel 22, David’s song of thanksgiving for God’s deliverance, which also happens to be virtually identical to Psalm 18.

And David spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. 2 He said, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
3 my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation,
my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence.
4 I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.
5 “For the waves of death encompassed me, the torrents of destruction assailed me;
6 the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me.
7 “In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I called.
From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry came to his ears…
50 For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations,
and sing praises to your name.
51 Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his offspring forever (2 Sam. 22:1-7, 51).

YHWH is David’s “rock” (sela‘ appears five times in the psalm; 22:2, 3, 32, 47 (2)) and his “savior” (forms of “save,” “savior,” “salvation” are scattered throughout the psalm; 22:3, 28, 36, 42, 47, 51).  David’s calls (22:4, 7(2)) and YHWH answers, which then leads David to praise his God (22:4, 47, 50).  Because of many instances of deliverance given to David over his enemies (Goliath, Saul, the Philistines, Absalom to name a few), he will praise his God for his steadfast love.  David speaks of himself as the anointed, but the conclusion to this psalm also points forward to about 1000 years, to David’s most important offspring, the one who brought salvation not just to David, but to the whole world, the anointed one, Jesus.

A few hours after concluding the taping of my 1, 2 Samuel course by speaking about this psalm, I, like David, had an opportunity to praise my God for an instance of deliverance.

After spending my days in the studio, and my evening reviewing my notes for the next day, I needed some time in the wild, so on Friday afternoon I decided to go for a hike.  I drove my rental about 20 minutes south away from Bellingham on Highway 11 down the scenic Chuckanut Drive, and parked at the Pacific NW Trailhead.  The helpful people at the tourist information booth that morning had told me it should take 3-5 hours to hike up to Oyster Dome.  The path would be extremely steep (1900 foot gain), but the view would be worth it, which sounded like the perfect way to unwind from a busy week.

I started my hike at 2:00, a bit late, particularly considering the fact that the sun goes down about 4:30, but I figured I’d go for an hour or so, then turn around and come back.  No worries.

The path was steep, so the coat came off, and the green shirt became even more pungent.  Fortunately, there was no one around to appreciate my aroma (but I never saw any wildlife…).

It was great to be outside, walking among the towering pine trees, enjoying God’s creation.

About 45 minutes up, I had the opportunity to go to the Samish Overlook to my right (15 more minutes), or go straight all the way up to Oyster Dome (45 more minutes).  As I was debating at the intersection of the two paths, leaning toward the shorter hike to the overlook, a group of three hikers came down the path from Oyster Dome.  I told them about my predicament.  They said “Definitely go up to Oyster Dome. It’s worth it.”  I thought, OK, I’ll have the Oysters then. (I should chosen the Overlook.)

The trail became less steep, but also more rough, crossing creeks, waterfalls and slippery rocks.  In my haste, I fell down a couple of times, which doesn’t usually happen to me on hikes.  Also, as the sun got lower in the sky, the thickness of the woods made it more difficult to see.  The path also was less obvious, but I passed groups of people every 15 minutes or so, which made it seem safer.

About 3:25 I finally made it to the top, the three hikers were right, it was spectacular.  Forests, mountains, coastline, ocean, islands, clouds and approaching sunset (image #2)…wait, sunset, that’s not a good thing, I still have 90 minutes of hiking to go.  But if I go quickly down I should be able to make it back to my car by about 4:45, right as its getting dark.

I spent about 5 minutes enjoying the view, then I headed back down the path.

That’s when the troubles began, but I’ll save those for Part 2

Oyster Dome View Sun No Dave 3.30


David’s view of David and Goliath’s View of David and Goliath

Goliath had as much chance against David…as an Bronze Age warrior with a sword would have had against an [opponent] armed with a .45 automatic pistol” argues historian Robert Dohrenwend, quoted by Malcolm Gladwell in his latest book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. Using scholars like Dohrenwend, Gladwell concludes that Goliath was the real underdog against David.

I’m about halfway through Gladwell’s latest book and I’m loving it just as I’ve enjoyed two of his other books, The Tipping Point and Outliers, but I have a few problems with his interpretation of David’s epic battle against the Philistine giant (1 Sam. 17).

I’ll call the giant Goliath as Gladwell does, but to be clear the narrative refers to him as “Goliath” only twice in the chapter (17:4, 23), and uses the term “the Philistine” over ten times as often (e.g., 17:10, 11, 16, 23, 26(2)…) probably because of its derogatory connotations. While you may not frequently insult your friends anymore by calling them “You Philistine” (we do in our family) the term still has negative connotations today.

(To read Gladwell’s own narrative of how he rediscovered his Christian faith while writing D & Gclick here for the article in Relevant Magazine.)

A few weeks ago, I was in Bellingham, WA taping courses on the books of 1, 2 Samuel and 1, 2 Kings for Logos Bible Software. Since I was thinking a lot about David’s story for this Samuel course I had decided to focus on Gladwell’s new book for my morning cycle on an exercise bike. Despite my positive inclination toward all works Gladwellian, I found myself arguing with the author in my head as I pedaled.

Everything else I’ve read from Gladwell previously was about subjects I didn’t know much about, but I’m a  bit more familiar with the Old Testament, the book of Samuel and particularly, the narrative of my namesake.

Gladwell does good research (using, among other resources, Baruch Halpern’s book, David’s Secret Demons), but concludes that Goliath was a clumsy, half-blind oaf. Goliath’s armor made him immobile and his pituitary gland disorder (acromegaly) impaired his vision so severely that “the world around him is a blur” (p. 14). Goliath was a cross between Andre the Giant (The Princess Bride) and Mr Magoo.

david-and-goliath-1544Gladwell’s arguments are well-argued, but ultimately not persuasive. He focuses on a few obscure secondary aspects of the text and hinges his entire argument around them, ignoring the main thrust of the text. For example, Goliath says, “You come at me with sticks” but David just had one stick, therefore Goliath couldn’t see well.

Why would the Philistines pick a “hero” like the one Gladwell describes to represent them in battle? Even junior high school basketball coaches know that big guys are not necessarily good basketball players. For Goliath to defeat the hundreds or perhaps the thousands of people necessary to be chosen as a national champion he couldn’t have been an “Andre Magoo”, but needed to be more of a “Spartacus Maximus“.

The entire nation of Israel was afraid of Goliath.  Saul himself was not only tall, but also quite a warrior (the women later sang of Saul killing thousands: 1 Sam. 18:7; 21:11; 29:5). Warriors are not generally afraid of half-blind oafs.

The way Gladwell and Dohrenwend spoke about the supposed accuracy of ancient slingers (people who used sling-shots), it is surprising that US soldiers are not still using sling-shots to take down the Taliban in Afghanistan. I just don’t buy it.

I realize in the world of publishing, Gladwell is a “giant,” while Lamb is more of a “David”. Think of this post as a smooth stone aimed, not at Gladwell the person, but at his interpretation of one of the best-loved stories in the Bible. While I love to see new things from the text, sometimes the traditional understanding is the right one.

David, the underdog, defeated Goliath the champion with the help of his God.

Counting publications and soldiers

I was working on my CV today (I’m not applying for jobs, I just update it regularly), and I decided to count up my publications by category (books, articles, dictionary articles, book reviews). As the number grew, I suddenly thought, “Perhaps this isn’t a good thing for me spiritually…


Then I thought of David and the census. I’ve been thinking about David and the Israelite monarchy a lot lately since last week I was at Logos Bible Software taping courses on 1, 2 Kings and 1, 2 Samuel. The book of 2 Samuel ends with a bizarre story where YHWH is angry at his people so he incited David to count the people (2 Sam. 24:1-17).

1 Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” 2 So the king said to Joab, the commander of the army, who was with him, “Go through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and number the people, that I may know the number of the people.” 3 But Joab said to the king, “May the LORD your God add to the people a hundred times as many as they are, while the eyes of my lord the king still see it, but why does my lord the king delight in this thing?” (2 Sam. 24:1-3)

In Chronicles it was Satan who incited David to count the people (1 Chron. 21:1). Did the biblical authors sometimes get confused between God and Satan? That’s not something you want to mix up.

The text of 2 Samuel 24 isn’t exactly clear what’s wrong with counting the people. After all, the book of Numbers does a lot of counting (hence the catchy title). But Joab clearly knows David shouldn’t do it.  For David, it seems to be related to pride in the size and strength of his military.

Gideon, after all, had too many soldiers and had to whittle down his army to 300 which was still ample to defeat the Midianites (Judg. 7) since it was YHWH that was fighting for Israel. Just as Gideon needed to depend upon YHWH and not the size of his military, David should do the same. By counting the people under his control, David would know how large his forces would be. He would then be tempted to rely on his enormous standing army for victory in battle, and not on the God who had delivered him from Goliath, the Philistine giant (1 Sam. 17).

Tragically, for David the divine punishment was severe upon the people. But why did YHWH punish them, for something David did that he provoked David to do? Great question–any thoughts?

For me counting publications, book sales or speaking requests can lead to pride, arrogance and a lack of dependence upon the God who’s given me my gifts, experiences and abilities.  As an act of penance, I decided to write a blog about the topic.

Next time I feel like counting, I’ll count my blessings.  I may even name them one by one.

How do we “take a census” today? Why is census-taking unhelpful spiritually?