Monday, May 17, 2010

May 17

OT: I Sam. 20:1-21:15

In today's reading, David and Jonathan further reaffirm their loyalty to each other. Jonathan's loyalty, in particular, is especially impressive when I consider the truth of Saul's words in 20:31: "As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor you kingdom will be established." C'est vrai. Of course, Saul isn't being entirely open, since God has already told him that his kingdom will come to an end, regardless of David's involvement.

I also liked the reference to David's being unclean as a potential reason for his absence at the dinner table. I like getting insights into how the unclean laws looked in that culture, since they are so foreign to me. Apparently, you didn't really need to inform everyone that you were unclean; you could just quietly excuse yourself from society, and they would come to that conclusion on their own.

After fleeing from Saul, David apparently goes rogue. He lies like a dog to Ahimelech (which will have some horrific repercussions), and then because of fear, he pretends to be insane in front of Achish. This was yet another lesson that was hard to apply to my 5th and 6th graders (though they did get into an argument about whether David was lying when he told Ahimelech that he and his men hadn't had sex with women. After all, as one of them pointed out, he was married. I mainly tried to steer the discussion away from David's sex life, but considering all of his other lies, that one could have been a lie, too). Anyway, in terms of God's direct involvement, David's moral lapses remind me more of the period of Judges and less of the early part of Saul's reign. Like David, Saul was afraid in our earlier readings, and like David, that fear led him to make bad decisions--which is why God decided to end his reign. Apparently, though, God is taking a different route with David. That is confusing, but it is not a new problem. Clearly, God reacts differently to sins, based on person and situation. As much as I would really like some kind of rubric for understanding God's responses, I guess this is another one I am going to have to chalk up to, "God is God, and I am not." (I also keep asking myself, "Isn't that convenient that you can always 'fall back' on the idea that God is too big to understand?" And then I answer myself, "No, it's actually not convenient at all. It would be much simpler to have God work in a clear way so that everyone could see clearly His purposes, and so we wouldn't have to have that pesky 'faith.'" And then I realize that I should probably stop having conversations with myself:)).

And lastly, two small details:

--When David states, "The men's things are holy even on missions that are not holy," does that seem like a cop out to you or a good argument for the maintenance of one's Christianity while in the armed services? (21:5). I am torn. (Not that I'm a pacifist, b/c I'm not. It's just that I can see how this concept could apply to killing one's enemies while following Christ...or how it could be applied to justify atrocities.)

--I love Achish's response to David's madman act: "Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me?" That made me laugh. "Am I so short of madmen...?" Oh, Achish:).

NT: John 9:1-41

As Christians seek in vain to figure out how to interpret misfortune (is it divine retribution? is it part of God's plan for the greater good? or do some things just happen?), this story influences many of our thoughts. Here is a clear cut case where Jesus says that personal misfortune did not come as a result of sin, as commonly assumed, but instead came to be ultimately used for God's glory (a la Rom. 8:28). While blindness from birth wasn't "good" in itself, God caused it to happen in order to be used for good. I appreciate these little windows into God's will, as they are often lacking in Scripture. I'm glad that Jesus spelled out that reality for His disciples instead of being coy or obtuse about it.

I always enjoy reading about the man's evolution throughout the story. At first, he simply states the facts to the Pharisees: "He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and now I see" (15). After the Pharisees question his parents and then bring him back in, he responds to their description of Jesus as a sinner by saying, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!" (25). He definitely seems more emboldened the second time, and more sure of what he knows. It almost seems like the continued opposition of the Pharisees is radicalizing him, pushing him more firmly into Jesus' camp. Under their repeated questions, He even becomes disrespectful to their authority: "I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it gain? Do you want to become his disciples, too?" I laughed at that response, but the Pharisees were not as amused. When the Pharisees continue to disparage Jesus, the man finally takes a firm stand: "We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing" (31-32). And then, the Pharisees kick him out of the synagogue.

I forgot to give an intro to the book of John this time, but one of the theories is that John was writing to a church that was being persecuted by a nearby synagogue. That is one reason that his Jesus is so divisive: John uses Him to clearly delineate "us" and "them" to his possibly fearful audience, and to reaffirm that "us" is right, and "them" is wrong. John also includes stories like this, the theories go, to reassure audience members who were also being kicked out of the synagogue for their belief in Christianity.

Psalms 113:1-114:8

A cheerful little ditty.

Since I have the idea in my head of "the upside-down kingdom," I am always drawn to verses that portray such reversals. Verses 7-9 describe the reversals from poor to rich and from barren to happy and fruitful.

Proverbs 15:15-17

Each of these proverbs have the theme of contentment, and they each maintain that being content with a little is better than being unhappy with a lot. So true. Attitude is everything!:)

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