OT: 1 Samuel 18:5-19:24
For some reason, the idea of David being an ordinary guy didn't strike me until reading this story. I know that 16:7 should have set off that line of thinking in my head, but instead I just thought about how cool it is that God knows our hearts and doesn't judge the way man judges. (You think? Honestly, that idea helps to explain a lot of the confusion of God's judgment in the OT.) But today, I remembered how amazing it is that God seems to go out of his way to use "the least of these."
Let's see: Jacob, Moses, Gideon, Saul, David. In their own individual ways, all of these man had serious background weaknesses. They were not the biggest, bravest, most talented, highly born men. They were average at best. And yet, God chose specifically to use them. He uses average joe's to accomplish some pretty amazing things! That is a reassuring message of the Bible.
I also thought that Eliab's spiteful comment to David contained an interesting choice of phrases: "I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is" (28). David is later called, "a man after God's own heart." It is sad how one of those closest to him told him the exact opposite of how God viewed him. It made me think of the negative messages and views of ourselves that we hear throughout our lives. It's often really hard to shake those views and to focus on the picture of ourselves as created for a purpose by a loving God.
And of course, I love the story of David and Goliath. It's odd, though: I find that I have the least to say about the more iconic stories. I guess I have just heard them so much that I have no new thoughts to write about them.
I did think it was weird that Saul appeared not to know David, since in the last chapter, Saul was very acquainted with him. Either these two chapters are an example of two different sources for I Samuel being put together beside each other, or the Goliath story happened chronologically between David's anointing and his playing for Saul.
NT: John 8:21-30
We are back to the divisive Jesus today. I can see why the editors of the Bible (that does not sound like the phrase I am looking for) felt the need to note that the story of the woman caught in adultery was not included in the earliest manuscripts. It definitely causes a break in tone and character from these divisive monologues. At the same time, there is something reassuring about a little clarity in life. And Jesus breaks things down quite clearly:
"You are from below;
I am from above.
You are of this world;
I am not of this world" (23).
As a child of postmodern era, I can handle a lot of gray area in my life. But I would like some things to be clear. "Love is good." That's a nice point on which to be clear. "My life has a purpose." That's another statement that I prefer to be listed in the "fact" column. "There is a God, and I am not Him." Also good. The Bible, and even Jesus Himself can often be maddeningly full of ambiguity, so I do find it oddly refreshing when He is crystal clear, even if his clarity does not resound well sometimes with a modern audience who, like the ancients, do not prefer to hear that they do evil things (John 7:7).
One other note: I don't know if it is Jesus who is speaking so choppily here or if it is John's Greek. Since Jesus was much more eloquent in all of the Synoptics, I'm going to assume that it is John that is making Him sound choppy.
This is a pretty simple praise psalm. Its standout characteristic is that, like Psalm 119, it is an acrostic. That makes me wonder why, in the NIV, verses 4-6 all begin with "he." Is the psalmist using a different name for God in each case that the NIV translates to a pronoun, or did the NIV rearrange the sentence structure?
Speaking of the idea that God judges the heart (I Sam. 16:7), here is a proverb that talks about just that thing. One of my favorite quotes is by Flannery O'Connor, the great Southern writer. She also happened to be a devout Catholic, and she once said, "A God you understood would be less than yourself." I'm sure you can unpack that on your own, but I just love the idea that none of us truly understands himself...and so how can we expect to understand a God who is bigger and more complex than us? Thus, the idea that God understands our hearts is really a pretty cool idea. In doing so, He demonstrates some of His immense knowledge and power.