Tuesday, May 18, 2010

May 18

OT: I Sam. 22:1-23:29

Whew! There was a lot of stuff that hit me in today's reading. The first was in our second verse: "All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around [David], and he became their leader." At first glance, it seems odd that people rallied to him based more on their own poor circumstances than their belief in his cause, and yet, I see that as a pretty typical phenomenon. As a political moderate (really), I mean this comparison in as apolitical a way as possible, but I really do think that a lot of people voted for President Obama based more on the fact that they were so sick of the way things were than their belief in the individual merit of the candidate. Again, I'm not saying anything for or against Obama, just like I'm not saying anything for or against David. I'm just saying that people who are discontent are more open to "change." Along those lines, verse 2 also reminds me of an in depth conversation I once had with one of my grad school professors (who was an agnostic). At one point she said something like, "You have to admit that there is something about Christianity that appeals to the poor, the uneducated, the ignorant, the discouraged." Of course, I agreed. That is totally true, and, as I said at the time, I think one reason is that those people know that they need something. They are open to the idea that they can't understand everything in this life, unlike those who (like me, admittedly) tend to elevate their own brain and reasoning capabilities as the highest in the universe. And even more than that, those people are longing for something more. They know instinctively that there has to be something more. Like David, Jesus drew the poor and afflicted. In fact, Jesus kicked off his ministry in Luke by reading in the synagogue what could be considered a mission statement:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:19, cf Is. 61:1)

So that was my first train of thought (it took me awhile to get through this reading).

Secondly, I found a metaphor for my own life in verses 3-5. Life in Judah isn't great for David, being hunted by Saul and all that. Thus, he retreats to Mizpah, and takes refuge, along with his parents, in the "stronghold." That sounds great. Nice and cozy and familial. However, a prophet tells him, "Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah" (5). The way these verses hit me was that I sometimes want nothing more than to cocoon myself in my "stronghold" with my little family. I want to create my comfortable bubble of love and safety and never to venture out into the harsh world of pain and messiness. And over and over, God's word calls me to leave the stronghold, and to venture out into a harsh and often hostile territory in order to help those who are hurting.

Next, the whole matter with Ahimelech shows just how delusional and paranoid Saul has become. That poor priest conveys his innocence pretty convincingly in verse 14, but Saul will hear none of it. Even his own officials realized how crazy he was and were unwilling to carry out his orders. Unfortunately, Doeg was apparently dying to spill some blood, and was more than willing to kill the priest and his family...and then some. Good lands.

A couple more quick things:

How did David inquire of the Lord in chapter 23 (2, 4, 11, 12)? Did he use the ephod the first two times as he did the last two? Does anyone remember what an ephod is? I thought it was some kind of garment. Here, it seems more like a Magic 8 ball. What exactly does it do to inquire of the Lord?

Lastly, I love 23:16, which says that "Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God." What a wonderful thing to do. I love the idea of helping someone find strength in God.

NT: John 10:1-21

I love Jesus' extended shepherding metaphor for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that it always makes me laugh in verse 7. I remember so clearly reading the elaborate set-up of this metaphor for the first time, and then getting to verse 7, which says, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep." The GATE?!?! I thought Jesus was the shepherd! That declaration completely threw me for a loop as a teenager. Turns out, Jesus is both, as He clarifies in verse 11. And I like the double metaphor, especially the way Jesus explains the gate version in verse 9: "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture." And of course, verse 10 is just amazing and sums up Christianity for many: "The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." That verse speaks to my soul. I've been thinking a lot lately about reason v. instinct. In my life, I have always tended to elevate reason and to devalue instinct, but I'm seeing more and more how that is a false way of thinking about the two. Both reason and instinct are faculties given to us by God. Both can point us to Him, and both can be corrupted. I can use reason to understand God more fully...or I can use it to rationalize my sins. I can use instinct to guide me into hedonism...or I can use it to point me to God. Instinct, for example, tells me to love my children. Instinct tells me that there is something more than what I can see. Instinct causes me to seek a fuller existence. And when I read John 10:10, it resonates with my instincts. It just seems deeply true to me.

Okay, true confession. Whenever I read verse 16 ("I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen."), my mind immediately jumps to one thing: ALIENS! Um, yeah, that or Gentiles:).

Psalm 115:1-18

Here is a psalm that actually sounds like a song. It has the kind of repetition that could be easily sung. I liked it a lot. My favorite verse was the first one:

"Not to us, O Lord, not to us
but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness."


Proverbs 15:18-19

These were good ones, and so I feel the need to just type them out.

"A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel." So true.

"The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway." I like how that one is worded, and I definitely agree with it.

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