Wednesday, May 12, 2010

May 12

I Samuel 12:1-13:23

Okay, so maybe asking for a king was bad in and of itself.

As has since been noted to me by one of my college professors, it seems that while kings themselves weren't wrong (see Deut. 17), the fact that the Israelites asked for a king out of fear was wrong, especially considering that God had recently saved them at Mizpah in chapter 7. I think one reason that I relate to and support Israel's request is that, like the Israelites, I can be fearful even in the midst of God's provisions. The kingship really does sound like a good choice to me!

The funny thing is that even after Samuel explicitly spelled out to them that their fear was very bad, they continued to fear. When the Philistines piled up against them and outnumbered them, they again "were quaking with fear" (13:7). And Saul's big sin was that he caved to that fear. He gave into it by going ahead and offering the burnt sacrifice as a way to raise morale. Instead of relying on God and telling the men not to be afraid, he let the fear rule his decisions, and he used God in a superstitious way.

At least, that's the best I can make of Saul's sin. To me, it honestly doesn't seem like so big of a sin (and again, that might be because I can totally see me doing what Saul did). Like the Israelites' request for a king, Saul's premature sacrifice seems like a relatively small infraction compared to so much of what went on in Judges. But again, apparently God does not like fear!

NT: John 7:1-30

Whew! John's Jesus is a feisty one! Really, the word I am looking for is divisive. Here is a short list of the divisive things He says in today's reading:

"The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil" (7). I have kind of gotten the impression throughout my life that people don't like being told that what they do is evil.

"Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?" (19)

"I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath? Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment" (21-24). By directly contradicting the people's beliefs (and kind of questioning their intelligence in that last verse, as well) Jesus is not mincing words here. Ben Franklin would not approve of this approach (sorry, I'm mixing readings).

"Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me." (28-29).

There is a lot of "you are evil" and "you v. me" here. To me, this is an example of Jesus "bringing the sword." He is clearly dividing people here. It's odd that I've always thought of John's Jesus as being Mr. Peace, Love, and Happiness. All the happy things must come in His later discourses. These are pretty hard core!

And here is another thing. When Christians take this approach today when talking to outsiders, it drives me crazy. I just don't see it as effective. As Ben Franklin says, it makes people hate you, which, coincidentally, is exactly how Jesus said they reacted to Him. (Okay, I'm mentally banning any other mention of BF.) So anyway, I don't care for the approach. But...Jesus used it...and aren't we supposed to be imitators of Christ?

I must think about this some more. Hopefully, we'll get another chance to revisit the topic.

Psalm 108: 1-13

Like Jesus, David continues with some "us v. them" in this psalm. I like the opening six verses, but the rest of the psalm just takes me back to Jesus' words....

Proverbs 15:4

...and since I can't seem to get off of Jesus' harsh style, I will now apply this proverb to it. See, to me, harsh words crush the spirit, much like a deceitful tongue. I want my tongue to bring healing, to be a tree of life, like the first part of the verse says. And I know that Jesus brought both life and healing, so it is hard for me to reconcile the style with the result. All I can theorize now is that Jesus knew His audience. Among the young, the poor, and the oppressed, Jesus is extremely gentle and merciful. Among the rulers and the arrogant, Jesus is harsh. Some people need a hug; some need a kick in the pants. Maybe these people needed a kick in the pants.

Plus, I do think that you need to delineate between right and wrong, as Jesus is doing here. I may be postmodern, but I am Paul-in-Romans-14 postmodern, not Waiting-for-Godot postmodern. So maybe this speech was the time for Jesus to delineate.

I will continue to ponder. My main question is one of application. In what ways and to what extent are we supposed to imitate Christ's behavior in this NT passage?


  1. I find it funny that you say that God recently saved the Israelites at Mizpah. That was at the beginning of Samuel's time as judge over Israel. Samuel chooses a king when he is an old man, near the end of his time as judge. "Recent" in this case is likely a generation or two in the past.

  2. Yeah, I debated over the word, "recently." Perhaps I should have said "most recently," since it was the last thing we read about. Regardless, as Saul's first major victory, it should have been fresh in his mind.

  3. A thought passed through my mind about Jesus' "harsh" words. Let's see if I can grab it...

    Clearly, Jesus was interested in the spiritual far more than the physical. He was also interested in truth. I get the impression he was seeing things on a spiritual level as he spoke, so perhaps he didn't use physical-esque, "earthly" arguments--that would have sounded nicer, more sugar-coated--because that would have clouded the truth of what he was saying. If the truth is something that is hard to accept, it is probably better to just get it out there in all its glory than to make it sound more comfortable from an earthly perspective. Yes, Jesus' words did turn many people off, but the ones who were not turned off really "got" it. I think that John in particular "got" a lot of the spiritual stuff that Jesus talked about, so maybe he was frustrated that other people didn't. Maybe he wrote some of that frustration into the phrasing of Jesus' words. Either way, I do believe that if something is true (and important; if it's not important, there is not much point in pointing it out), it is a message best left unadulterated by niceties just trying to make it sound better. If it's true, it's true. Period. (However, like I said, if it isn't important, then people's feelings are the priority. Someone may be fat, but there is probably not any value in telling them that. Although, I guess it depends on how fat. If they are grossly obese, maybe a doctor does need to be brutally honest so that they will take action to make the situation better.)