Friday, June 15, 2007

Irony

The stack of papers was thick, inches maybe. The room, graced with lively Baroque music. I liked much of what I was reading--my students’ literary analyses of Great Expectations. Several of them were actually quite good.

The hour hand had moved forward one by the time I reached for God’s Masterpiece and prayed, “Help me to see something in here that I’ve never seen before.” His Book is the most splendid of all works, alive with literary images and themes that even the greatest authors must only build upon.

It so happened that my reading was to begin in 2 Samuel 11—a dreadful chapter in the Bible, one that exposes the sin of him who was perhaps the greatest of all poets, David. Maybe it was those analyses that had rubbed off on me, because I was seeing irony everywhere. And I’m not just talking about the salient ones—like Uriah delivering his own death note to Joab. What of these?

*Why did Uriah, a Hittite (Gentile, not of the house of Israel) have more loyalty to God than God’s anointed king of His chosen nation?

*David’s anger is projected in one instance and real in another. Is it not ironic that the “man after God’s own heart” should become angry over physical calamities / social injustices but fail to be stirred over numerous sins (staying home from war, lusting after Bathsheba, committing adultery with her, killing her husband in battle)?
--Joab predicts that the king may become gravely upset that the Israelites had approached too close to the city and thereby lost men.
--David’s anger is “greatly kindled” over the sheep story that Nathan tells. (ch. 12)

*Earnestly David desired to cover his sin. How ironic that every “secret” thing he committed in this narrative is now known to any who should read these chapters or hear them preached.

God’s Masterpiece tells me that “These things were written for our examples.” And as I considered David’s reactions to God’s way, I at once realized the irony I commit whenever I walk my own way instead of following the path of the omniscient God, Who loves me and sent His Son for me.

Immediately I considered how David’s anger was all mixed up, and the following incident came to mind: Last week, when my husband and I were on our honeymoon and visiting Mackinac Island, we toured Fort Mackinac, which earned fame from the 1770s on. Our tour brought us to a particular outbuilding in which recorded voices and mannequins “recreated” a battle from the War of 1812. In the three-minute recording, God’s name was used as an exclamation. In minutes, my husband had dialed the fort’s number and kindly registered a comment. He said something like this: “I’m sure it was an oversight, but here at [and he mentioned the building], I heard the name of God used as an exclamation. There are children who come in here and I believe that in the army during that time, saying these words would not have been acceptable; besides, having this word used in such a way is offensive to some people.” The office took his name and address and said someone would personally get back to him.

Here was anger for sin. Anger that most of us Christians don’t deal with. We hear God’s name taken in vain all over the place—people we’re talking to, shows we’re watching, talk radio hosts we’re listening to—and we do nothing. We have failed to get angry over sin. Get the same group of us hungry or tired or sore or sick, and complaints we’ll register! Like David, who was keenly aware of common decency toward innocent people but flagrantly disobeyed a holy God, our frustration is too often put in the wrong place.

Other lessons about irony?

Attempting to sin and get away with it is sheer folly.

Whenever I fail to honor and glorify God (as did David in this story), I am acting ironically, for who among the created beings should praise the Most High more than His elect?

In short, irony is a Christian living for himself when the God of the Universe gave His Son for him.