OT: I Sam. 18:5-19:24
Okay, let's brainstorm together. Name people whom God made sin. Go! Um, Pharoah...those people who didn't let the Israelites pass through on the way to the promised land...Eli's sons whom God kept from repentance...Judas (right?)...and now Saul. (Am I missing anymore? I'd really like to know all of them.) Saul seems kind of bipolar anyway (and I don't use that term lightly), and he seems all the more so b/c of that evil spirit God keeps sending him. Today, the God-sent evil spirit causes him to try to pin David to a wall with a spear...twice! Clearly, this is a mildly problematic trend for those valuing the idea of free will.
And yet, I am becoming more and more jaded about our decision-making capabilities anyway. My church was born during a time when Enlightenment ideals about reason and rationality were being applied to religion. If we all just put aside our preconceived notions and read the Bible with fresh eyes, the reasoning went, then we would all come to the same conclusions. Well, over two hundred years later, and we can all see that that's not exactly what happened, even within our relatively small sect of believers. See, I don't think that people can put aside their preconceived notions and prejudices. Yes, we can grow and evolve...but sometimes it doesn't seem that we can grow and evolve that much. Does this seem pessimistic? Maybe. But I also think it is biblical. Throughout Scripture, there is the idea that we cannot come to God unless He draws us to Him. I tend to believe the reasoning that at one time or another, God draws everyone to Him. According to Acts 17:27, God gave us each our exact circumstances for just that purpose. He put us in the places we are so that we might reach out to Him and find Him. So with that line of reasoning, the only way that anyone ever comes to God is through Him drawing us through the circumstances He arranged for us. There is free will there, but there is also a lot of divine "interference." Not that that's a bad thing, necessarily...until you start getting in to times when God seems to be keeping people from Him. Is that fair? Does He hold that against people for eternity, or does He just do it to fulfill His earthly purposes? Who knows?
My, my...we've gotten away from the actual OT content, haven't we? These ideas come powerfully into play in the NT, so I decided to go ahead and start fleshing them out using Saul. Before I move on, however, I will give a few other random observations and questions:
--Why doesn't David want to marry Saul's daughters? False modesty? Does he realize Saul's nefarious intentions? I think it is b/c he genuinely feels unworthy...which is why he jumps on the chance to prove himself and to "earn" marriage to Michal. Unfortunately, that means...
--Killing two hundred enemy combatants and circumcising the bodies! DISGUSTING! Next!
--I was greatly amused by Michal's "fake David" made out of the idol and the goat hair. Which, whoa...it just occurred to me that she has an idol in her house. Um, why?? And as David's wife, does that mean that David has an idol in his house? Point to ponder....
NT: John 8:31-59
The dialogue between Jesus and the crowd encapsulates everything I despise about talking to other people:). See, Jesus is speaking clearly. I don't think He is stuttering or slurring His words. And yet, nothing is getting through. He is beating His head against a brick wall. You could argue that their obstinance (is that not a word? My spell check keeps shooting it down) is His fault (b/c of His harshness), or even that it is His intention. After all, in the Synoptics, Jesus claims to use parables specifically to keep certain people from understanding. In Mark 4:12, He references Isaiah 6:9 by saying, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, 'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!" Thus, this is another possible instance, along with Pharoah, Saul, and co., where God is "interfering" with man's salvation.
However, here's what I was talking about earlier: this cantankerous conversation sounds completely realistic even without the idea of Jesus purposefully putting the people off. I hear dialogue like this all the time when people start talking about politics and such (actually, that's not entirely true, as I generally turn the channel when things start getting combative:)). And the problem is that when people have their mind made up about something, there is generally just no changing it. Again, that sounds so negative and fatalistic, but I just think it is true. It is a rare person I have met that has seriously changed their core belief system once they pass the age of 21. So...if I have a problem with God interfering with our decisions, I should also have a problem with how He made us in the first place. Why are we so stubborn? So hard-headed?
I even see it in myself. I can talk about these questions all day and not lose faith in God. I feel pretty rock-solid these days, actually, even as I confront all the ten million things that I don't understand about the Bible. So...maybe our stubbornness can be a good thing sometimes. Maybe what makes us hard-headed also makes us love others persistently, beyond all reason. Maybe it's what makes us believe in God in the first place!
Whew...I just think I talked myself around one big circle. I truly have no aim with this line of thought. I'm just trying to figure out God's role in everything. Clearly, my "understanding" is a work in progress:).
But oh yeah--the text, the text. Of course I love the legendary verse 32: "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." It's always good to remember that the "then" refers to the phrase in the previous verse, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples." That concept makes the feel-good words of verse 32 a bit more challenging. But I do love the idea of truth setting you free. My mind has been working on a coherent theology of Jesus, and right now, it is centering on the idea of dying to oneself. See, to me, biblical freedom means freedom from self. Our selfish desires enslave us, which is exactly what Jesus goes on to say in verses 34-36. When you take these concepts in conjunction with Jesus' repeated admonitions to lay down our lives and to die to ourselves, I think you get close to the radical message of Jesus. Only when we lay "ourselves" down can we love the way Jesus called us to.
Lots of good verses in today's psalm. Among my favorites are:
4--"Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man." I love elemental imagery: light, dark, life, death, water, bread. And of those, light and dark might just be my favorites.
5--"Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice." My parents are definitely a testimony to that.
7-8--"He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes." I always need a more steadfast heart, and verses like these help strengthen it.
"The discerning heart seeks knowledge..." (14a). To me, that is total justification for being a nerd:)!