It just so happens that after finishing an unexpected and impromptu lesson for Sabbath School on the death of David since neither of the other teachers for our age cohort were at services yesterday and I had gotten no notice on this and only a bit of notice on the subject matter of yesterday’s class, I was able to return to the normal church services and listen to a very thoughtful and reflective sermon by our retired pastor on the subject of appeasing God. The speaker asked us to reflect upon how we view God and how he is to be pleased , and why, and what sort of outside influences have encouraged these views. Given the fact that this is for me a genuinely complicated task and one that no doubt other people would have at least some interest in knowing, and it would be of some worth in sharing, I thought it would be appropriate for me to share these reflections as part of my customary blog posts written to reflect upon the material I hear in Sabbath Services.
I first heard the word appeasement thrown around as a young student of military history when hearing about the craven behavior of the Western democracies towards Hitler in the waning days of the interwar period as Hitler snatched up Austria and the Sudetenland and eventually all of the present territory of the Czech Republic. In this context, appeasement was definitely a bad thing, and it was recognized at the time by those like Churchill who saw it as a cowardly betrayal of the ideals of Western civilization and in retrospect by nearly everyone else. At the time, it allowed Hitler to unilaterally annex two neighboring countries and engage in the process of oppressing and harassing Jews and other groups in those countries, and increase his logistical base and consolidate his authority at home and abroad before engaging in larger attacks. During this time the western nations stood by and did little or nothing, even after having declared war on Hitler over his attack on Poland. Ever since then, at least in political circles, the word appeasement has taken on a particularly disastrous tone, and any time a leader proposes to deal with a dictator through graciousness and moderation, the word has been bandied about as a political slur to compare him to Neville Chamberlain. If this is what people have in mind when it comes to appeasement, it would be easy to just say no.
Interestingly enough, in my impromptu Sabbath School lesson the issue of appeasement came up in a striking way. The death of David is told in the first two chapters of 1 Kings, and they are generally pretty obscure chapters for young bible students, at least those who have no special reason to study that part of the Bible. We begin by seeing David so unable to stay warm and so impotent and decrepit that they bring in a beautiful virgin to keep him warm and nothing else happens. The children, incidentally enough, found my delicate description of this to be greatly entertaining for whatever reason. While David is losing energy and dying in his bed, his son Adonijah makes a play for the throne by throwing his own premature inauguration party and pointedly refuses to invite a few important people: Nathan the prophet, the king’s adviser Beneniah, or Solomon the son of David promised by God to reign after David. Nathan, being a shrewd man, talks to Bathsheba about the issue and they graciously come before the king urging him to take the effort to crown Solomon publicly as king in order to make his own wishes plain while he still has the power to do so. He does so, and Adonijah’s party quickly fades away and Adonijah asks and receives a tepid reply of mercy from his brother. At this point, he should have stayed home and kept a low profile, but he was unable to do so, and his request for the lovely virgin Abishag from the hand of the king led to his rapid demise. Here we see multiple attempts at appeasement, where the life of various people at different times depends on who is king and what kind of king they are and what kind of behaviors they exhibit as king. Is it sometimes necessary to appease people in authority who are irrational and who may not have our best interests in heart and mind? Yes, even if the consequences of guessing wrong can be very painful and unpleasant.
Long before I knew the word appeasement, though, I had plenty of experience with the concept of it. One of the more tragic aspects of my life has been my complete inability to be invisible or have a low profile in times of trouble, which as one can imagine for someone like myself is fairly often. Having a loud voice, a fairly big personality, and the tendency to write at length about subjects delicate and uncomfortable to others, I am not the sort of person who can easily hide and this has led to continual trouble from the time I was a crying baby and abused small child to my present adulthood. Those of us who grew up in the sort of household I grew up in learned very early in life that the adults in authority over us did not have our best interests at heart, and often had a great deal of harm in mind to us, whether those authorities were more concerned about their own longings than the peril they were putting their children in, or whether they were abusive alcoholics, and so on. I don’t want to dwell on the subject, but I want to make it plain that whatever personal tendencies I have towards appeasement in my own life, they do not come so much from the influences of a world focused on penance but rather from the tangled and unpleasant emotional terrain of my early life.
To the extent that I would view God as being like my physical father, I would feel appeasement and a certain sense of terror as being highly appropriate responses. Fortunately, although a certain amount of terror, more than a little, has become a permanent facet of my feelings about authority in general, I do not find God to be a particularly terrifying authority. From my vantage point, at least, I view Him to be a being who is incomprehensibly intelligent and has far reaching plans and goals so as to be deeply mysterious, but yet someone who enjoys sitting next to and talking to and being friendly with the little people around him, someone who would be viewed as kindly but more than a little bit odd and impossible to truly understand and fathom. As such, I would not view him as someone to be appeased, but someone whose ways were puzzling and odd and yet interesting at the same time. Perhaps it is a bit embarrassing to say so, but I would think that my own dealings with amusing little people is not so different from the way God views me as His own small child. I do not consider myself to be a person who must be appeased, but I am a person who desires love and respect from those around me. It should not be so hard to find as it is, either, for either myself or for God, but things are not as they should be.
 See, for example: