OT: I Sam. 26:1-28:25
I keep thinking about that old joke: a man is caught in a flood and prays to God to save him. As he is praying, a firetruck comes by to pick up any stragglers caught in the flood. The man tells them, "Don't worry; God will save me." As the waters rise, a rescue boat comes by to pick up the man, but he tells them, "Don't worry; God will save me." Finally, he is forced onto his roof, and a helicopter sees him and throws down a ladder. Again, the man waves them off, telling them, "Don't worry; God will save me." The man drowns. When he gets to heaven, he tells God how disappointed he is that God didn't save him. God replies, "I sent you a fire truck, a boat, and a helicopter. What more do you want from me???"
Here's a variation on that joke: A man is being hunted by his enemy, when his enemy unknowingly stumbles into his cave. The men around him say, "The Lord has given your enemy into your hands." The man says, "No, don't worry; God will take care of him." Next, God puts the man's enemy into a deep sleep so that the man can sneak into his tent. His friend says, "Today, God has delivered your enemy into your hands." The man says, "Don't worry; God will take care of him." Good grief--all we need is a third scenario, and we've got ourselves another joke!
Of course, I don't know if God was delivering Saul into David's hands, or if he was testing David, or what. I can appreciate David's respect for the Lord's anointed, though I did kind of want to shout at him, "You are the Lord's anointed!" Not that I'm advocating for David to kill Saul (okay, maybe I am). I just find the whole scenario confusing. And I'd love just to assume that David did the right thing, but it doesn't seem like his moral compass always points north.
Case in point: after showing some outlandish mercy to Saul, David takes advantage of Achish's hospitality by massacring his cities on the sly. I mean, what on earth? Is God cool with this? Do the Israelites really have carte blanche to kill whatever Philistines they can? Not only are David's actions genocidal here, they also just seem like bad manners.
But again, David's actions are not explicitly condoned by God (thank goodness), just as his sparing of Saul isn't explicitly condoned by God. I really just do not know what to think about this man so far.
And just try to explain the moral of this story to 5th and 6th graders. Go on--I dare you:).
I also found the witch of Endor story to be bizarre. A few points to ponder: the witch has some legit powers, as she conjures up Samuel and he correctly predicts the future. The witch is also a pretty nice gal, who takes mercy on a soon-to-be dead man when she sees that he is weak from hunger. She ends up feeding him quite a feast.
Complexity. That's what this passage has. You have a bizarrely merciful man who slaughters whole cities in his spare time. You have a king anointed and empowered by God who seeks guidance from a witch. And you have a witch who has compassion on the king who outlawed her (and rightly so, of course).
NT: John 11:1-53
Man, I love the story of Lazarus. I think John does a great job here of bringing out some juicy details. Allow me to pull out a few:
Juicy detail #1: "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days" (5-6).
A simplistic view of God and of love says, "If God loved us, He would not let bad things happen to us." The Christian view is a little deeper than that, and it is informed by passages such as these. The Christian view says, "Love is not always shown by bringing happiness. Love is shown by doing what is best. And what is best does not always bring happiness, especially in the short term." Honestly, that summation is a little simplistic, too, but it is still much truer than, "Love never causes pain."
Juicy detail #2: "Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, 'Let us also go, that we may die with him'" (16).
Poor Thomas. He really gets a bad rap. We all know him as Doubting Thomas, when we could just as soon know him as "Dedicated Thomas." (I just thought that one up all by myself:).) After all, here he is willing to follow Jesus to what he views as pretty certain death.
Juicy detail #3: "When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home" (20).
I always think of Martha as the practical one, who spends her time cleaning and doing what needs to be done, while Mary is the more...emotional (?) one, who would rather idly sit at Jesus' feet and listen to His stories. Clearly, I'm not sold on the word emotional, but I don't have a better substitute right now. Regardless, this little glimpse into their characters confirms my opinions. Martha does what needs to be done. Jesus is here. Jesus is her friend. She will go out and greet Jesus. Mary, on the other hand, is hurt and perhaps angry. She chooses to ignore Jesus' arrival. I also love Martha's exchange with Jesus, which to me seems guardedly hopeful.
Also, though I do believe that Mary was very hurt by Jesus' unexplained delay, she still "quickly" got up and went to him when she heard he was asking for her (29).
Juicy detail #5: "Jesus wept" (35).
This one is truly mind-blowing. Jesus is very much in-the-know right now. He knew that Lazarus would die. He knew when he did die. And He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. And yet, he still weeps when confronted with the sorrow of His friends. My practical self says, "Don't just sit there and cry; heal the man!" And yet, I am so glad that Jesus did sit there and cry. That picture helps me to wrap my mind around a God who feels my pain even when He is not actively taking it away from me in the manner that I would like.
Wow, that's a short psalm.
"Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed" (22). Yes, but also, "Too many cooks spoil the broth."
Okay, I think I'll go with the real proverb:).