Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Stones--A Glimpse of Jersualem

Welcome back to our discussion of The Stones
by Eleanor (Ellie) Gustafson!
by April W Gardner

I’ve just reached chapter six, which doesn’t seem like much, but it’s actually very close to the half-way point. Each chapter is jammed packed, filled to brimming with historical events recorded in the Bible. Much of it is narrative, but when Ellie pens dialog, she does it with expertise.  The things her characters say either crack me up or sober me with their depth of wisdom. Ellie, you are indeed a master crafter of engaging dialog.

The event that stood out to me the most during this quarter of the book was David’s move from Hebron to Jebus (which he renamed Jerusalem). I’m not sure if I've just glanced over it every time I’ve read the account in Scripture or if there just isn’t much there, but it was practically all new information for me. Ellie, did you fill in details from other historical sources? If so, how much? 

Ellie wrote a nail-biting account of the take-over of the city from the Jebusites. I'd never thought about who occupied Jerusalem before David or for how long. For those who haven’t read the book, the Jebusites had control of the city for hundreds of years before David decided he wanted it for his capitol. But that’s all I’m saying! You’ll have to buy the book if you want to find out exactly how David entered the highly-defended and, up to that point, unconquerable fortress. Hint: God had something to do with it.

Before the battle David addressed the troops. This is what he said:
“Look up, all of you, to the hill above Jebus. Mt. Moriah, Abraham brought his son Isaac from Beersheba to this place to sacrifice him in obedience to God’s command. He stood right where you’re standing now. He looked up in dread, yet set food to the mountain, confident that God—somehow, in some way—would provide. And he did. As Abraham raised his knife, the angel of the Lord stayed his hand. So shaken he could hardly stand, Abraham looked around, and there in the thicket, caught by its horns, was the sacrifice God provided in place of Isaac.
“Abraham called the mountain, ‘The Lord will provid,’” David continued, “and we’ll hold to that word today. We’ll climb Mt. Moriah, and there Yaweh will provide. Here, in the name of the Lord, we claim that miserable shelf called Zion. It shall be cleansed of Jebusites and be forever known as Jerusalem, Mt. Zion, the Holy City of God.”

Eleanor Gustafson
That passage deeply impacted me. Having grown up reading the Thoene’s  work, I’ve always been fascinated with Jerusalem, but Ellie, you took me back to the beginning and drew a thread through the centuries, through David and all the way to Christ. Although you didn’t mention it, the reader easily draws the thread the rest of the way through to present-day and the ongoing struggle for God’s Holy City.

Our God is an awesome God! (Made you sing it. Wink.) History is already written, and He sees the big picture with perfect clarity. (Aren't you glad?) We can only hope to catch a glimpse.

Ellie, have you been privileged to visit Israel? If so, tell us your favorite part of the experience. If not, tell us what the first place is you’d want to see if you were told you’d be flying there tomorrow.

I pose the same question to our readers as well as the following—Was there a particular passage that stood out to you in this quarter of the book?

If you haven’t gotten it yet, make sure you pick up your copy of COTT champ, Delia Latham's, Destiny's Dream. We'll be discussing this fun romance next month!

--April W Gardner is the Sr. Editor at Clash of the Titles
and the award-winning author of Wounded Spirits


Gail Pallotta said...

Hi Ellie and April,
I certainly grew fond of Abigail, because she lives with God. She is definitely the woman behind the man, or as Bette Midler would sing, "The wind beneath (David's) wings." I was so proud when she had David cooaxe Achish into giving them their own land, so they would not have to worship idols.

I'm so sorry that David can't be more accepting of Daniel, because Abigail loves them both so much, but she's courageous about it and doesn't let his rejection of Daniel diminish her love for either. Do you think that's because she understands David so well?

David made a couple statements that struck home with me. On page 212, he's talking about his life with Benaiah and he says, "I was anointed king of Israel. I was to shepherd God's people. How many times did I doubt that? Those years in the wilderness, running till I coughed blood, tired, hungry, desperate, responsible for six hundred men and their families. No, I didn't feel much love for God at those times. But I did it. I did what I had to, and somehow God gave me the strength to get through it."

I couldn't help but think of times when I'd done what I had to, but could only do it because God gave me the strength.

Then on page 223 I liked David's statement that "the only difference between us and pagans is that we know how bad we are."

I'm enjoying the book very much, Ellie, especially getting to know more about Abigail. I'd like to say I'm named for her, but my mom said it was the nurse in the delivery room. LOL. Maybe she was named for her.

Anonymous said...

Good morning, April! You're moving right along in the book. You must be on Chapter 6 of Scroll Two. Fasten your seat belt for that one--moving the ark to Jerusalem!
I combed through the Bible for every morsel of info I could find on David and his world. We do know that Joab scrabbled his way into the city to regain his Commander-in-Chief status. (I want to know what readers think of Joab!) The Uriah connection was made up, but his attempt fits his character as a noble and loyal Mighty Man who willingly sets aside his own interests.
YES--you picked up the veiled allusions to the Son of David in the Jebus speech--and there will be more. Look for them.
And yes, I have been to Israel. Didn't want to go, thinking it would be shallow, touristy stuff, but God met me there, big time. I can't narrow it down to one favorite part--our little group singing extemporaneously in a church with an echoing reverb that settled a bit of God's glory on our heads; reading guide-chosen Scripture passages aloud at different sites; our bus driver's missing ear that found its way into the book in the person of Obil the camelmaster. Obil, by the way, is listed in 1 Chronicles 27:30 as one of David's functionaries: "Obil the Ishmaelite was in charge of the camels." I HAD to use that delicious morsel! Our guide was fantastic and though proudly a Jew, he knew the New Testament through and through. I think he got really tired of me asking questions all the time. : )
And thank you, April, for liking my use of dialogue. I find conversation to be the most fun--and effective--part of fiction writing. And here we are, conversing on Clash of the Titles Book Club! Now I want to hear from you. --Ellie

Ellie Gustafson said...

Hi Gail—Ellie here. Good to read your take on the book so far. And of course, I’m happy that you like Abigail. She is quite a lady! As for Daniel, I sort of made him up out of whole cloth. The only thing we know from Scripture is that he probably died early. (Stay tuned for his death!) IF he were sickly as I cast him, then David the warrior MIGHT NOT have looked on him approvingly. One of those “could have happened this way” situations that I resorted to many times. I like your borrowed idea of Abigail being “the wind beneath [David’s] wings.”

I like, too, your noting Abigail’s take on paganism. This is one of those huge issues that pop up throughout David’s life. When Joshua came to the Promised Land, he found it filled with and surrounded by pagans with their nasty, idolatrous practices—burning children to the god Molech being just one of them. “If you don’t get rid of them,” said God, “they’ll infect the whole of Israel,” and that’s exactly what happened on down the kingly line. God ordered CHEREM (see the Preface, p. 12 for more on that), the practice of killing off everything and everybody pagan. That topic alone could touch off a LONG conversation! God chose David to establish the kingdom that had been promised to Abraham, and David was able to beat back idolatry, at least temporarily. I like to think that Abigail helped in that process. : ) David did indeed recognize that paganism was only a short step away for any of them.

David’s conversation with Benaiah is one of my favorite passages in the book. Benaiah is an interesting character, in that he is obviously an important person as David’s chief bodyguard and even afterward when he serves as Solomon’s Commander-in-chief, but little is said about him in Scripture. In this passage, David’s comments about feeling God’s love in hard places flow from Benaiah’s perceptive questions.

Thanks so much, Gail, for giving us your view of David as I cast him. My driving force was to present him as the man that God loved and used, despite his many failures.

And while your mother may not have had our Abigail in mind in that delivery room, I think God might have had her in mind. Blessings on you!

Gail Pallotta said...

Hi Ellie,

Aww, how nice to say that God may have had her in mind.

April W Gardner said...

It also makes me sad that David doesn't like Daniel but it also makes him real. I do love to see his faults and not a glorified version of who he was.
Gail said a statement that stood out to her was "the only difference between us and pagans is that we know how bad we are." That was kinda popped me over the head too. I almost commented about it but if I had I would have gone on forever!
So, Ellie, the chapters started over in Scroll Two? Lol! That makes sense.
Oh! another question for you, Ellie. I must know about the enormous, ahem, body part on the top of the wall of Jebus with the pearl. Is that for real?!
Joab is a confusing character for me. I can't remember what happens to him in the Bible (and I refuse to read ahead!), so I'm not sure if he ends up turning on David or not. I'm thinking so, but want to be reminded as it happens. He certainly does have an indomitable character! And I admire that in a man.

Delia Latham said...

I haven't had the pleasure of reading this book just yet, but you all are certainly arousing my interest!

April asked where we'd go if we flew into Israel tomorrow. I think it'd have to be first Golgotha and then the empty grave. I can't even imagine the power that must be a permanent part of those two locations!

Jim Gustafson said...

Ellie here--I'm late in picking up these comments, as we've been traveling and experiencing and praising God through Minnesota and N. Dakota. We fell in bed last night, exhausted.

April first with the pagan comment. When we look around us, especially in today's culture, we as Christians look pretty good. But when we start looking inside ourselves, the bad is all there; we just don't let it hang out as much. On a slightly different track, a sermon illustration at the church God led us to yesterday, was the story of a Christian in a prison camp who was given the bottom-of-the-barrel work assignment of emptying the septic pool daily. He rejoiced because this was the only place where he could be totally alone and able to pray out loud, shout memorized Scripture, and sing. His favorite song was “In the Garden”—I come to the garden alone, etc. Who of us could have done that? The pastor went on to say that we need to focus less on our circumstances than on our hearts before God.

And yes, the “body part.” That was made up, but given the pagan fixation on sex as a means of corporate fertility, I believe it to be a logical extension of how seriously they worshiped their gods. Plus, it worked well with the story. LOL

Joab is one of my favorite characters (and I have many : ) largely because he is so complex. He’s loyal and pours himself out getting and keeping David on the throne, but he is undeniably loathsome. He and David need each other to fulfill their individual ambitions, but David hates Joab and hates himself for needing his despicable commander-in-chief. Look for the one, tiny crack I allowed Joab to show.

And Delia (I’m guessing at your name, as I can’t read it under the date), I’ll post a separate comment for you. : )

Jim Gustafson said...

Hi Delia—Thanks for jumping in the conversation! The David story is fascinating in itself, but the really awesome thing about him is the messianic thread that keeps popping up all through the Bible, right down to the last book and almost the last verse of the New Testament. “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” God’s promise to David that one of his descendants would always be on the throne has its glorious fulfillment in Jesus.

We visited the tradition tomb of Jesus and then the more recently discovered Garden Tomb, aka Gordon’s Calvary. That may or may not have been the “real” place, but it was a powerful experience for our entire group. The actual Calvary was sort of a drive-by in the middle of Jerusalem—no going to stand on top of the big rock—so it was far less significant for the trip, but of course, enormously significant for us who know what happened there.

Pick up the book, Delia. I would be happy to talk with you about it, even after July. There’s a lot for all of us to learn through David. My email is

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