OT: I Sam. 8:1-9:27
So I have a theory about this king business that developed in the few minutes that it took me to read the passage (in other words, this theory is waaaay underdeveloped).
I have always heard that Israel's decision to have a king was bad, b/c it was a rejection of God (8:7). And the reason Israel rejected God is because they wanted to be like everyone else (8:20). And so, kids, let's not bow to peer pressure. God wants us to stand out and not try to be like everyone else. The end.
See, from my perspective having read the Bible, the decision to have a king wasn't all that bad, especially when compared to concubine raping/disassembling, thorns-and-briars revenge-taking, and 70-son-massacring that has been going on. I mean, life in the book of Judges was awful. And there was no likely judge to take Samuel's place since, like Eli, he had some trouble raising his sons. So...this request sounds reasonable to me. And honestly, things under Saul, David, and Solomon were at least better than the era of the judges, right?
Here's my take (which I spent a whole five minutes developing, mind you): When God tells Samuel that they have rejected Him, He is certainly not just talking about the moment they asked for a king. The text itself alludes the long history the Israelites have of rejecting God. I think the rejection God is describing has basically lasted from the desert up until this point. And I think that God knows that the Israelites need a king. They simply cannot uphold the Law on their own, and they need a king because of that weakness. However, a king comes with a price. Before, they could all choose how they lived and when they fought: the book of Judges repeatedly says that in the days before they had kings, everyone went his own way, and though the judges would call them to fight, the tribes could choose whether to send men. That was all about to end. And so what God was saying to/about the Israelites in 8:7-22 was that because they had rejected Him this whole time, He would grant them the necessity of a king to lead them...but it would have a price. They needed someone to keep them straight, but if you give a person the power to keep you straight, you give them the power to do a lot of other things, too. And of course, the kingship can (and would) be distorted. It definitely has its own pitfalls.
And how funny was it that Saul was out on a donkey-hunting mission? That has to be one of the most...earthy...things to be doing. I don't have a better word to describe it, but it is just not an exalted task in any way, and it makes for an ironic comparison with God's lofty vision for him. And furthermore, he is the from the least of the families in the least of the tribes. God loves picking people like this. Thinking of the idea of the "upside-down kingdom" alluded to so much by Jesus, I see previews of that kingdom in characters like Saul and Gideon. In both cases, God takes the "least" and makes it the "greatest." That's just what Jesus is going to do with the poor, the oppressed, and the powerless.
NT: John 6: 22-42
I'm quite tired after a weekend long retreat (I guess that's ironic, but youth retreats are hardly relaxing:)), and so maybe that's why my mind can't quite wrap around the following passages:
"Jesus answered, 'I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill'" (26). Weren't the loaves the miraculous signs? Weren't they one and the same? Or is He just trying to use the physical bread as a segue to spiritual bread, kind of like He tries to do with all His miracles?
"Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent'" (29). What the what? This sentence has always baffled me. How can believing be "work"? And if it is work, then why do subsequent passages (mainly by Paul) say that we are NOT saved by works, but we ARE saved by faith (believing) in Jesus? Work can (and probably does) mean two different things in the two passages, but the bottom line is, I don't understand what Jesus is saying.
"All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away...And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (37,39-40). Point for predestination! It makes it seem here that God gives Jesus the people who are destined to believe in Him. And even though those people can still be lost (according to these verses), it is God's will that they will not be lost. But as far as who believes in Jesus, that seems firmly in God's control. This is probably something that is simply beyond my cognitive abilities as a human, but I just can't grasp it.
Psalm 106: 32-48
More ruminations on Israel's history.
Now, this is a nation verse that I can get behind (34)! I strongly disagree with the idea that America is the new Israel and that, as such, we can take verses about the nation of Israel and use them to describe America. That is simply horrible exegesis, in my book. However, this proverb can theoretically be applied to all nations, and I do believe that righteousness exalts a nation. I may differ with others on what that righteousness looks like or, more probably, how we attain that righteousness as a nation, but I definitely agree with this proverb!