Holy Chutzpah – David

Holy Chutzpah – David

Holy Chutzpah – David.

… And David stripped down to his skivvies, and then with everybody looking on including his wife Michal, David did a dance. With trumpets blaring and drums beating… how they cut loose together, David and Yahweh, whirling around before the ark in such a passion that they caught fire from each other and blazed up in a single flame of such magnificence that not even the dressing down David got from Michal afterwards could dim the glory of it.” (Frederick Buechner, Peculiar Treasures, pgs. 26-27). 

Chutzpah (hoots-pah) is a Yiddish word that long ago entered English usage. It is from the Hebrew word, “hutspah,” which means insolent or audacious. Chutzpah is a neutral word that can be either positive or negative. Chutzpah can be righteous or unrighteous, holy or unholy. It is an idea difficult to define, so there are a lot of synonyms for it, especially in the biblical sense: spiritual audacity; brazen gall; tenacious stubbornness; headstrong persistence; outrageous guts; shameless nerve; feisty assertiveness; brazen impudence; unyielding boldness; courageous spine; expectant defiance. The Holy Scriptures, both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, are overflowing with examples of holy chutzpah. One wonders not only if it’s a job requirement for saints and prophets, but also a faith requirement for all believers. In fact, God seems to love chutzpah in us when it is based on our ultimate trust in Him and His character, our unselfish motives, our yearning for justice and mercy. Chutzpah in front of others becomes holy when it is done in obedience to the Lord and is an outworking of our faith in Him. As Rabbi Schulweiss once said, “Spiritual audacity toward God finds a place of honor in Jewish religious thought.” The rabbis of old have always insisted that chutzpah is a valid expression of faith. Just a quick glimpse at the Gospels reveals that Jesus and His followers fully embraced the ancient Jewish ethic of holy chutzpah. When Jesus saw chutzpah in action, He usually said things like, “Great is your faith!” Maybe Christian scholar Dr. Brad Young said it best. “True faith requires bold perseverance. Sometimes it is expressed by brazen impudence. Faith can be defined as chutzpah. Persevere with unyielding tenacity.” (Brad Young, Jesus the Jewish Theologian).

David was totally unique in Scripture. Raised a shepherd boy, the last of eight boys, the one everyone seemed to overlook, he became a renowned musician, a legendary poet, a fierce warrior, and the most beloved King in the history of Israel. He was a faithful worshiper of Yahweh, and, the highest accolade one could receive, he was “a man after God’s own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:14). Was he a prophet? Yes. His psalms prove that. Was he a priest? Well, he led worship and offered sacrifices when the ark was brought to Jerusalem, wearing a priestly garment at the time. Was he a king? Unquestionably, the greatest king of Israel. David’s life certainly hinted at his distant relative, the Messiah Jesus, who was the ultimate Prophet, Priest and King.

If there was one quality David had in his personality, it was confident, brazen audacity. With Goliath he was indeed audacious. With his manufactured crazy routine, he was outrageous. In his dance before the Ark, he was shameless. In all this, he demonstrated holy chutzpah at its finest. The following are three vignettes of his godly foolishness.

Goliath. Is there anything more audacious than a basically empty-handed boy facing off with a fully-armed bully of a grown man? And a very large bully at that, about nine and a half feet tall and a fierce, experienced soldier. But this was no ordinary boy. This was an anointed shepherd boy who had already killed a lion and a bear in his defense of the sheep (1 Samuel 17:36-37). Word was already out that David was a “brave man and a warrior” even while a very young man (1 Samuel 16:18). And since the day of his anointing by Samuel, David “had the Spirit of Yahweh on him in power.” (1 Samuel 16:13). So David was extraordinary even before he challenged Goliath in 1 Samuel 17.

So maybe it wasn’t so surprising that young David was brazen enough to have a duel with the Philistine giant. One of the qualities that sets David apart from practically everyone else is his overflowing confidence in God, learned and ingrained as a boy in the fields. To get a sense of his confidence in God, look briefly at his song of praise in 2 Samuel 22.  David composed this song after God rescued him from his enemies and from Saul. The song displays his unshakable confidence in God to support, strengthen and rescue him. This confidence was a dominant part of his personality his whole life. He developed this confidence as a shepherd boy, as a warrior, and as King of Israel. In this song, which is virtually identical to Psalm 18, David states that Yahweh saved him, rescued him, supported him, restored him, helped him, preserved him, and delivered him. David acknowledged that God faithfully kept him from defeat. The song triumphantly exults in his Rescuer by calling the Lord his rock, fortress, deliverance, refuge, shield, strength, salvation, stronghold, lamp and champion. In this song David rejoiced in the LORD, that “with your help I can crush any army, I can leap over any wall.” (22:30). With this overwhelming confidence in Yahweh, David wouldn’t shy from any conflict that involved the Lord’s honor and name and reputation. St. Paul reflects David’s confidence and trust when he said, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). David no doubt was thinking the same thing as he approached this giant soldier. He’s a mere pagan giant? Bring him on! With God on David’s side, Goliath was doomed from the start.

Craziness. David is escaping from Saul and making his way to a major Philistine city, Gath. David must be desperate if he is running to a Gentile enemy’s camp. The Philistines were only too happy to give David access to Gath, since they probably thought he was a defector from Israel, and maybe a helpful military leader at that. Eventually the Philistines got nervous about someone who had evidently slain thousands of Philistines in the past. Then it was David’s turn to get nervous, assuming the Philistines might do something drastic to rid themselves of David. So, since it was customary to leave the mentally unstable protected and unharmed, David pretended to be insane. He started doing outrageous things, like scratching his feet on the doors of the main gate, and he went around town drooling into his beard, spittle covering his face. The leaders of Gath soon dismissed David as insane and sent him on his way. David didn’t seem to be self-conscious as he continued acting out of his mind before they kicked him out of town, but those bold, clever antics served him well. It saved his life. (1 Samuel 21:10-15).

Dancing. David was full of joy as he escorted the Ark of God back to its rightful place in Jerusalem. The Ark represented the very presence of Yahweh, and it established Jerusalem as the religious center of Israel. David was thrilled that the Ark of the Covenant would be accessible for worship in Israel’s capital. So there was “great celebration” as they brought back the Ark. “David danced before the LORD, whirling about with all his might, wearing a priestly loincloth.” (2 Samuel 6). So David and all the people of Israel formed a riotous parade with shouts of joy and the blowing of ram’s horns. But when his wife Michal saw King David “leaping and dancing before the Lord, she was filled with contempt for David.” Michal was disgusted with David for making a spectacle of himself before all the people. “How distinguished the King of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls like any vulgar person might do!” David defended himself, and said “I was dancing before Yahweh, making merry out of pure enjoyment… And I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes!” After this exchange, their relationship hit the rocks, and she remained childless (2 Samuel 6:12-23). It needs to be noted that David’s priestly loincloth was basically linen underwear worn by priests when offering sacrifices. (Exodus 20:26 and 28:42). The Lord instructed the priests to wear the loincloth over bare skin. But in his celebration before Yahweh, David didn’t worry about playing the shameless fool. He said he would engage in even more of this foolishness if it was called upon!

Looking back on David’s life, it seems that it was David’s heart that set him apart. It wasn’t his artistic excellence in word and song, it wasn’t his physical beauty, it wasn’t his military valor as a warrior. There was something about his heart that caused Yahweh to accept David so intimately. Remember the Lord’s words at David’s early anointing… “Man looks at the outward appearance, but Yahweh looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7). That’s what God was looking for, and in David that’s what He found. Because of his heartfelt trust and confidence in Yahweh, David was unafraid to play the fool or display chutzpah. Perhaps David is the greatest holy fool in all of Scripture. The only competitor for this would be his distant relative, Jesus Christ. In this case, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. There is no question that Jesus was the Son of David.

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