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....
...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?